This story has been updated with comment from Shull.
Jefferson County Public Schools officials are delaying a plan to merge two alternative schools for more discussion after concerns over gang-related violence.
The proposed merger, part of a larger facilities plan, was scheduled for a March 12 board vote. Instead, it will be split from the larger plan and revisited at a later date, according to the meeting agenda.
A JCPS spokeswoman, Renee Murphy, confirmed the delay, saying the merger will likely be up for a vote at an April board meeting instead.
“We are reviewing questions from board members and we hope to bring that matter back for a vote at the following meeting in April,” Murphy said Monday.
A push to build four new schools and combine six current schools over the coming years will be voted on as planned, the agenda says. A full-scale renovation of the Academy @ Shawnee will also be voted on.
High school students at Breckenridge Metro and Minor Daniels Academy were slated to be combined into a single school in August. However, teachers and some school board members said such a plan would risk student safety and increase gang-related incidents.
In a work session last week, a board member, Corrie Shull, suggested postponing any decision impacting alternative schools until a fuller plan could be worked out. “To do this in the wrong manner would be bad for JCPS,” Shull said.
In an email Tuesday, Shull said he was “encouraged” by the decision. JCPS needs more thought on which career-readiness programs they’ll offer in order to “make the students’ experience in the alternative school more formative and enriching.”
“Before voting on the merger of alternative schools, there needs to be a strong plan to ensure the safety of students and staff which necessitates inviting professionals to the table- such as Gang Intervention and Prevention Specialist- who can help us developed a more robust strategy to ensure the safety of students and staff,” Shull said.
“The aim of alternative schools should not simply be punitive but it should be our strategy to change the behavior and life-trajectories of students who find themselves in alternative schools.”
Security concerns headlined a list of stakeholder issues with the merger, which is part of a larger reimagining of how the district works with alternative students. Putting all high school alternative students in one building would allow the district to provide extra supports and career and technical education opportunities, officials said.
Fights, sometimes gang-related, and behavior issues are daily issues inside alternative schools, Insider Louisville first reported in January. It would only get worse if the schools were combined, Breckinridge Metro teacher Kumar Rashad said.
“There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed,” Rashad said last month.
The future of the WEB DuBois Academy, which will expand an extra grade level next year, was also of concern. Under the current proposal, DuBois would move into Breckinridge Metro’s building, but some have said it is not large enough for the continued growth of the all-boys, majority-minority school.
The decision could be a win for the groups who opposed the facilities plan, including JCPS’ teachers union. On top of acknowledged security concerns, many who criticized the plan wanted the district to delay any facilities decisions until a new student assignment plan is crafted this summer.