Green light for school serving kids on path of crime

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INDIANAPOLIS — Teens have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons in Indianapolis and a new school aims to target those kids while they’re in the system.

The city’s Charter School Board gave its approval to the Francis Marion Academy on Monday night.

The Academy, run by its own non-profit board in conjunction with Goodwill Industries, will focus on kids moving within the juvenile system or who’ve been kicked out of school.

“We know how hard this is going to be,” Scott Bess with Goodwill Industries said.

Right now, kids in juvenile detention can take classes through Indianapolis Public Schools, but those classes do not run in the summer and do not serve kids once they leave the center. The average stay for a juvenile is only two weeks.

Backed largely by players within the Marion County Juvenile Court system, the new school will run classes within the juvenile detention center and also at a free-standing building outside the jail.

It will also accept students who have been expelled from school but have not been arrested. Those kids are often the ones who end up on the streets, getting into trouble during their idle time away from school, leaders said.

“There’s always been a huge problem with the young men and women who’ve been expelled. They have nowhere to go,” Marion Superior Court Judge Clark Rogers said.

The school is in talks with IPS to potentially use a building right next to the juvenile center at 25th and Keystone, but its home is among many details that need to be hammered out before a slated opening in the fall of 2015.

Charter board members said they still think there are many questions to be answered, particularly how to address both discipline and education within the school model. Members also said they wanted more focus on hiring qualified staff members.

School leaders said their next step will be securing funding, working out details and beginning classes in the juvenile center this upcoming year to kick things off.

“I think the strongest piece of this is (that) we work with each individual student, figure out what their plan is, what do they want and then help them reach goals,” Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Chuck Parkins said.

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