Plan outlines charter schools at juvenile detention centers

Ball State University
Ball State University. (WISH Photo, file)

MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) — Officials within Ball State University’s Office of Charter Schools are considering an Indianapolis organization’s proposal to create a charter school at juvenile detention centers statewide.

The idea behind CORE Academy is to help youth who are in or have just been released from juvenile detention facilities, including students who have been expelled from other schools, The (Munster) Times reported. The facilities would offer credit recovery and continued education, according to Laurie Elliott of Indianapolis-based Youth Law T.E.A.M., who has helped with the proposal.

The charter school is meant to serve as a “bridge” between past and future by providing detained students with academic opportunities that can transfer to local schools after they leave the juvenile detention system.

If the university approves the charter school, it could open next year at the Lake County and Porter County juvenile detention centers and at Muskegon River Youth Home of Indiana near Crawfordsville. Programs in participating juvenile detention centers would be staffed and operated by the Youth Leadership Team, and CORE Academy would be funded like any other charter school, Elliott said.

Elliott has talked with Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., who oversees the juvenile division, and Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, who oversees the Porter County Juvenile Services.

“Both were open to listening about the possible benefits of participating with CORE Academy, but neither have made a commitment to participate,” she said. “Letters of support were included in the application.”

Stefaniak is interested in the proposal but is seeking additional information to ensure the charter school offers “the total package,” he said.

“We are not educators and don’t want to be in the business of operating a school,” Stefaniak said.

If the charter school is approved by Ball State, the Porter County Juvenile Detention Center is prepared to be a partner, Harper said.

“We appreciate the amount of respect they are giving to us in believing our region would be a good pilot area on behalf of the education of children,” she said.

Stefaniak said the juvenile detention system is obligated to provide services that will help the kids make strides.

“We want to help them continue on a path to success while they are here and even after they leave,” he said. “Now, education is (provided) piece-meal and we are struggling with our program.”

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