Meriden Program for Expelled Students No Longer at Boys and Girls Club
Kimberly Primicerio, The Record-Journal 06/30/2012
MERIDEN — Classrooms on the top floor of the Boys & Girls Club are being cleaned out.
For the past 10 years the rooms hosted students involved in the school district’s expulsion program. Due to budget restraints the school system can no longer afford to house the program at the club.
Teachers who worked with expelled students at the club for 15 hours a week are upset they’ve lost their jobs, but are also worried about the future of the program. They worry students won’t get the same amount of one-on-one attention they’ve been receiving for the past decade.
Teacher Joy Weyrauther was a special education in the Bronx before getting involved in the expulsion program 10 years ago. She said she and the other instructors knew everything about their students, including middle initials and addresses.
“These aren’t bad kids, they just made bad choices,” Weyrauther said.
Students who went to the Boys & Girls Club due to expulsion didn’t lose a year of schooling, said teacher Joan Perry-Keogh, who’s been with the program for seven years after teaching in Hartford. They were able to go back to the school the following year knowing everything they were supposed to.
“It was a good concept,” Perry-Keogh said. “Students converged in one place.”
Emily Blechert has been with the expulsion program since its conception. She said having the program at the Boys & Girls Club was a safe haven for the students. They went to class there and could play basketball and participate in other activities before and after school.
“It kept their spirits up,” she said.
School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni said for the next school year the expulsion program will be administered from three different locations. Expelled students ages 16 and older will be at the adult education program at the Women and Families Center. Special education students will attend the district’s Venture Academy at Rushford Center and other expelled students will be educated in the portable classrooms at Washington Middle School. Due to state law it is mandatory for school districts to offer an expulsion program.
To be economical, the district will use programs that are already in place, Benigni said.
“These are more structured programs,” he said. “I think we’re providing a better program in a cost-efficient manner.”
Renting space at the Boys & Girls Club cost the district $30,000 a year and running the program cost more than $100,000. Now there’s a reduction in staff and no rent expenses, Benigni said.
The Venture Academy already works with special education middle school and high school students throughout the school year. The adult education center is also equipped to work with older students.
The benefits of the restructured programs are longer school days with more learning time. Students are also in classrooms with peers who are closer to them in age. At the Boys & Girls Club, it was possible a sixth-grader was working alongside a high school student, Benigni said.
“We’re making decision in the best interests of the students,” Benigni said.
Originally published here