Starrett could house youth detention alternative

Apr 4, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A program serving students facing expulsion and in trouble with the justice system could have a new home in the former Starrett Junior High building. The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is continuing to report success in its second year.

"We did move out of the group home," program director Melinda Cox told Fremont County Commissioners April 1. "We are temporarily located downstairs (at the Fremont County Courthouse), but we have been offered some space at the Starrett building in Lander."

Fremont County School District 1 offered the program three classrooms and use of a gym and kitchen, Cox said. One classroom would be used for middle-school students, another for high-school students and the third would be an office, she said.

Commissioners approved an expense of $500 per month to rent the space. She thought the alternatives program had room in its budget to cover the cost, Cox said.

"I think this is probably a good thing because it is actually putting the kids back in a school setting," Commissioner Travis Becker said.

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative began in 2012 after the county closed the juvenile wing of its detention center. The new program provides county services and an alternative school to youths who are involved in the court and have been expelled from their schools.

A major component is a day reporting center where students receive educational and other services. The program had used space in the Riverton Group Home for the purpose.

The group home recently had concerns about liability and transportation, Cox said, motivating the organization's board to ask the alternatives program to move out. It has been using a meeting room of the county youth services department and the juvenile treatment court, she said.

Five students are currently enrolled in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Cox said, and she expected three more to join within a week. This year, it has served students from every Fremont County School District expect School District 6 in Dubois.

"Had we not served those kids, they would have been expelled from school and received no schooling," Cox said.

An opportunity to provide cost-effective lunches to the programs students also arose recently, Cox said.

The alternatives initiative has partnered with the Fremont County Detention Center to provide the meals at a cost of $1.50 each.

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