PITTSFIELD -- The Juvenile Resource Center, the program for at-risk students and operated since 2002 by city schools and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, will have a new location, updated programming and a new name, according to schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless.
McCandless said that in addition to moving to 505 East St., the space formerly occupied by the Mildred Elley School, the alternative education facility will now be called the Student Resource Center. The change should further remove any hint that the programs for Pittsfield students are associated with the juvenile justice system, McCandless said.
The move away from the former House of Correction building on Second Street is necessitated because Sheriff Thomas Bowler plans an inmate pre-release facility there. That was seen by McCandless and other school officials as an opportunity to reassess the programs offered.
Those include tutoring and other services for students who have been suspended for more than one day from regular classes; tutoring for students with medical or other issues preventing them from attending classes; a program for juniors and seniors at risk of dropping out of high school; and an education program for students with behavioral issues or life difficulties affecting their performance in regular classrooms.
There were about 75 students on average at the center during the past school year. About 40 of them were in the dropout prevention program. McCandless said last week that the administration will seek requests for proposals for a community partner organization to provide the dropout prevention services at a separate location.
The Sheriff's Department will continue to be a partner in the program at the Student Resource Center site, he said, providing security and other services.
A total of 6,200 square feet of first-floor space in the building will be leased by the school district for $86,800 annually from Wojtkowski Brothers Inc. of Pittsfield, the owner, McCandless said.
He said the SRC will continue to have an annual budget of about $400,000, with about $200,000 going to the Sheriff's Department for staffing and other costs, $100,000 for rent and overhead costs, and about $100,000 for a community partner to operate a dropout prevention program.
McCandless said the center has had "robust programs," which have been successful with students facing significant challenges. Of 280 students serving a short-term suspension over the past year, he said, only 52, or 19 percent, had similar issues again during the school year.
A high percentage of those at risk of dropping out of school also stayed in school, he said.
The new center space, which will be available to the school system as of July 1, was being used as a school and met health and safety codes for educational programming, McCandless said.
Mildred Elley moved to a West Street site in May -- the former KB Toys headquarters building.
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