Access to excellent educational opportunities is one of the most important considerations for young families buying real estate. Allison Martin, Chief of Communications and Community Relations for the Jefferson County Public Schools, joins this super informative edition of the Louisville Perspectives Podcast, hosted by Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty.

Louisville homeowners can choose from 155 schools in the Jefferson County Public School system. Every school has a different feel, and it’s very much like buying a home where you know it just “feels like home” when you walk inside, says Martin. “It is amazing to be able to have this type of quality public school system available in a large urban area,” she adds.

For starters, jefferson.kyschools.us lists the “resides” school for a particular address – that’s the school your children are most likely going to attend based on where you live. The website lets you check what bus your child would ride, find open houses and tours, and learn more about schools based on interests.

On top of school choice, Louisville residents may opt to send their children to the Traditional Program, the STEM program, performing arts courses, or magnet programs like the Montessori program, where kids learn at their own pace. At Shawnee High, kids can graduate with a pilot’s license and go on to study at the Naval Academy for a position with the military. There are so many options.

“I encourage everyone to really take advantage of touring our schools,” she adds. “I don’t think you can make a great choice for your family until you go in those schools.” Tours are available through the JCPS website. They are accepting open applications through the beginning of January, so November and December tend to be popular months for tours.

“Eighty-three percent of our families get their first choice when it comes to elementary school and kindergarten,” says Martin. The major challenge is for families who move in the summer or outside the application window in the middle of the school semester. “Magnet program applications go through first and if you didn’t get those, you would be placed in your ‘resides’ or ‘cluster’ school,” Martin explains.

The JCPS system works a little different for middle and high school. Students largely attend the nearest school to their home address – with the exception of magnet program applicants. Most families automatically receive a notification letter, without having to apply or fill anything out. Most kids attend Kammerer Middle unless they have applied for the gifted and talented program at Noe, for the math, science, technology program at Meyzeek, or the performing arts program at Western Middle School.

As a parent, Martin understands the need for different types of educational opportunities. “I have children that are totally different types of learners on complete ends of the spectrum,” she explains. “One of my children needs a pretty rigid instruction, a lot of direction. One of my children, you could drop in the middle of a free space and have some pencils, and she would have at it and be able to design and create.”

Her artistically inclined daughter does attend her resides elementary school, but she is considering the creative environment at Montessori Middle or Western Middle School’s performing arts program for the years ahead. “Just because you didn’t make a choice in elementary school, you went to your ‘resides’ school, doesn’t mean those choices aren’t available to you when you take a look at middle school,” she clarifies.

Jefferson County is home to some of the top schools in the state and the country – Manual High, Ballard High and Eastern High, to mention a few of the most highly lauded. Atherton is another amazing school being recognized nationally under the leadership of the principal there.

Part of Allison Martin’s job involves debunking some of the misconceptions people have about the school system. “Things were very different in the late 70s, early 80s,” she explains. The old busing system that created schedules based on last name does not exist anymore. Today, 50% of the parents do not choose the school closest to them, so there are buses packed with kids going to the same school, no matter where you live. Over the last 5-10 years, JCPS has worked very hard to facilitate smoother transfers for families moving during an odd time of year.