Moorhead School Board asked to OK employees for second secure classroom at juvenile detention program
MOORHEAD - The Moorhead School Board will be asked today to approve adding a full-time teacher and a full-time paraprofessional to teach a second classroom of students in the secure detention program of the West Central Regional Juvenile Center.
MOORHEAD – The Moorhead School Board will be asked today to approve adding a full-time teacher and a full-time paraprofessional to teach a second classroom of students in the secure detention program of the West Central Regional Juvenile Center.
The cost of the hires for the second half of this school year, plus fitting the classroom with desks, chairs and computers, is about $67,600, said a memo to the board from Superintendent Lynne Kovash.
The second classroom will handle not only the growth in the number of juvenile detainees from the 13 Minnesota counties served by the center, but also Cass County detainees who will be housed at the center under contract after the first of the year.
Juveniles in secure detention, located in the old St. Ansgar Hospital building, have often been charged with gross misdemeanors or felony offenses, said Stephen Larson, director of the center.
Schooling is required under state law for the center, Larson said. Classes are Monday through Friday during the school year and there are also summer school classes.
Larson said the classes will be a plus for Cass County juveniles, who currently don’t have that educational opportunity.
“Anytime our kids have the opportunity to receive education, it’s going to better, (and) hopefully expand their opportunities when they start making better life choices,” Larson said. “It’s only positive.”
The regional juvenile center houses boys and girls ages 10 to 19, he said.
There are 14 beds in the non-secure part of the facility, and 24 in the secure facility. The number of secure beds expands to 28 on Jan. 1, the school district memo said.
Kovash said that at one time, she taught at the juvenile center.
“We really need additional help there,” Kovash said Friday.
Teachers and materials are supplied by the Moorhead School
District. About 40 percent of the juveniles housed at the center come from the Moorhead School District. The cost of teaching the other students is billed to their home school districts.
The average daily census for juvenile detention services in Cass County is 6.7 youths, with a projected capacity of eight students in 2015, the memo said.
The regional juvenile center’s residential program offers chemical dependency evaluation and treatment, and sexual therapy.
The center had two secure detention classrooms for many years, with each room built for 16 students.
Declining enrollments between 2004 and 2007 led to closing one of the secure classrooms in 2007.
But the program has grown since 2012.
The Moorhead School District increased special education support, and starting in fall 2013 a substitute teacher was brought in if enrollments topped 16 students.
This school year, the program has been at or above capacity 85 percent of the time, a trend consistent with the 2013-14 school year, the memo said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583