Juvenile Resource Center eyes former Mildred Elley home for relocation


PITTSFIELD -- The Juvenile Resource Center may have found a new home at the former Mildred Elley School site on East Street.

Kristen Behnke, assistant superintendent for business and finance for Pittsfield schools, said Friday that one formal offer was received to an appeal for space for the center's programs, but it turned out to be an ideal one.

"The challenge is finding educational space," she said, referring to an adequate amount of square footage in a structure that could also meet zoning and building code requirements for schools.

In that regard, the former Mildred Elley space was all of that, Behnke said. It housed the career training institution before Mildred Elley moved in May to new quarters in the former KB Toys headquarters building at 101 West St.

Behnke said she will recommend to the School Committee on Wednesday that the school system lease 6,200 square feet of space on the first floor of the 505 East St. structure at $86,800 per year.

While the building is located in a shopping center that faces toward East and Fourth streets, the main entrance actually will be at the rear of the building on Whipple Street, she said.

The lease could begin as early as July 1, Behnke said, as little needs to be done to the interior space.

Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler notified the school system earlier this year that the former county House of Correction on Second Street would no longer be available for the Juvenile Resource Center, which offers several alternative education programs for city students, as he plans to use the space for a pre-release facility for inmates at the current House of Correction on Cheshire Road.

Those in the program will be nearing the end of their sentence and about to re-enter society and the work force.

The JRC is a program operated in cooperation with the Sheriff's Department and has been located at the former House of Correction for a decade.

Four separate programs are offered, serving about 75 students on average. The largest is for 11th- and 12th-graders at risk of dropping out, with about 40 students.

Other programs include tutoring for those who for medical or other reasons cannot attend class; an alternative education program for students who have been suspended from school for more than one day, and an education program for students with behavioral issues or life difficulties affecting their performance in school.

School Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless has said that the administration will re-assess the JRC programs to determine what changes or updates should be implemented. He said in April that he sees the change of location as a challenge but also an opportunity to refocus some aspects of the programs.

School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon has said she welcomes the change of scenery because, although the programs have been beneficial to students, the fact the site is a former jail could "send the wrong message."

Reached Friday, Yon said the location appears to be a good one, and the timing of the move by Mildred Elley School in May was fortunate for the school system. She also was pleased that the programs will now be in a traditional school setting, as opposed to the former jail building.

Yon added that she expects discussion among board members and administrators on how the center's programs should be structured going forward.

Bowler has said the Sheriff's Department will continue to cooperate with the center, offering security and other assistance at the new location.

To reach Jim Therrien:
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_therrien


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