By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian
Options are available for at-risk students, but an alternative to what is already being offered could be just what a few of them need, according to Joe Merendino, the director of safety and risk management at the Division of Juvenile Services.
During the Marion County Board of Education meeting Monday, Merendino and Travus Oates, principal at the Barnes Alternative Learning Center, proposed that the BOE consider partnering with them to start a new school for at-risk students. This additional program could reduce the suspension rate/expulsion rate, Oates said.
Board members unanimously approved the idea.
“When you walk in here with our probation officer, with our principal at Barnes and with our superintendent in support of doing this, it’s hard to say no,” board president the Rev. James Saunders said following their presentation.
Soon to be established at the Marion County Youth Reporting Center on Locust Avenue, the school would admit up to 15 students in the classroom. Currently, the center serves 16 students from throughout Marion County. With the school setting in place, a master level therapist, additional counseling, case managers, correctional counselors and possibly a correctional officer would be added to the staff.
“We’re talking our toughest of our tough could go to this program at the center,” Oates said.
An existing referral system would be in place between Barnes and the Youth Reporting Center. While they would be responsible for providing the security officer, crisis intervention, training, Internet and phone service, the BOE would be responsible for providing a teacher and supplies, coordinating programs through Barnes, attending meetings and sharing transportation.