Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim criticized the recommendation for a state takeover of JCPS in April 2018 as teachers and other stakeholders look on. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Less than a month before a scheduled vote on a plan to build four new schools and merge others, Jefferson County’s teachers union announced it is opposed to the district’s proposal.

Jefferson County Teachers Association’s board voted unanimously to oppose the plan until JCPS finalizes a student assignment plan. With the opposition, JCTA joins a growing collection of advocacy groups against the proposal, which is slated for a March 12 school board vote.

“We stand with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools in the belief that proceeding in making changes to the JCPS Facilities Plan before the Student Assignment Plan is complete will limit the district’s options in designing a student assignment plan that ensures all students have diverse and equitable learning environments,” JCTA wrote on its Facebook page.

Union board members are worried that a proposed alternative school merger will worsen safety if the plan goes through, the post said. Placing all high school alternative students in one location could exacerbate gang issues and violence, teachers and community members told Insider Louisville.

At the end of their post, JCTA encouraged people to attend a protest event Friday at Breckenridge Metro, one of the alternative schools potentially merging.

JCTA President Brent McKim confirmed the decision Wednesday afternoon.

JCPS wants to build four new schools — three elementary and one middle — in the district in the coming years. Over the past weeks, district officials have said new facilities are sorely needed and can boost student achievement.

As part of the proposal, JCPS would merge some elementary schools in a few years onto new campuses. Watson Lane, Roosevelt-Perry and Wheatley would close once construction is finished.

A few schools would see immediate changes. Gilmore Lane Elementary would close at the end of the school year, with its students spread across their cluster. Liberty High would take its spot, and Breckenridge Metro and Minor Daniels Academy would combine their high school students at Liberty.

Critics, including the coalition with which JCTA aligned, say the targeted schools have low enrollment because the district buses kids away from the schools. District data show the overall student population around those schools is decreasing. The ratio of resides students attending the school versus not, generally, stayed roughly the same over five years.

Merging alternative schools, where per-pupil spending can be over four times the district average, could allow the district to provide more services for some of the district’s most vulnerable students. But it would combine two schools with high behavior issues into one, causing safety concerns.

JCTA’s post came as the local school board discussed the facilities proposal in a work session Tuesday night. More so than past discussions, board members seemed to heed union and advocate worries.

Board member Corrie Shull expressed issues with the plan in a Twitter thread before the session, calling the proposed alternative school merger “concerning.” He suggested tabling alternative school changes until there is a fuller plan to improve the “educational and existential trajectories of one of our most vulnerable populations.”

“To do this in the wrong manner would be bad for JCPS,” Shull said in the session.

Board chairwoman Diane Porter also had concerns, suggesting she won’t vote on the proposal until she sees more information from JCPS.

It is unclear if JCPS will delay the vote or adjust the proposal before the March 12 vote. JCPS officials visited every school impacted by the proposal over the past few months, receiving mixed feedback but making no changes.