More Questions Come Forward About Project Change
School Board members have questions regarding program and are told more information to come at June meeting as district and committee works on a plan for the charter school.
Change is coming for Project Change, the charter school for high school students returning to school after treatment for drug or alcohol addiction
Faced with too low of enrollment in the school and with the charter agreement up for renewal, the School District of Waukesha is working with a group of community members to develop a plan for the recovery school that will satisfy everyone, community and school board members alike.
Since January, a focus group of concerned individuals including school officials, staff and community members has been meeting to develop a revised charter for the school. According to information from Wednesday night’s school board meeting, the plan will be presented to the school board’s curriculum and instruction committee in June.
Jennifer Wimmer, executive director of special education for the School District of Waukesha, said that they were working hard and trying to make the program viable again, in fiscal responsible manner.
The next steps will be for the focus group to form a governance board and bring their plan for a charter to the curriculum and instruction committee. Also forthcoming will be a marketing and communication plan, plus additional information such as an enrollment update and financial data, Wimmer said.
At the recent school board meeting, three school board members had questions or concerns they would like answered about the program.
School Board Member Steve Edlund said he is “a little reserved” about the program, saying that it seems its success is tied to the individualized attention student receive and while he appreciates wanting to expand, he’s not sure if that would work for the program or financially for the district.
“If we grow this program, what’s the maximum capacity we can handle with these very challenged individuals and, financially, are we able to handle the expansion of the program if we limit the class size to whatever number?” he asked.
School Board Member Dan Warren said that cost was an issue and that he would like more information about how much responsibility the district has as opposed to other social service agencies in the area.
“The cost factor is something that we all need to be careful of," Warren said. "We know that we have children with very specific needs. I would be uncomfortable if all of a sudden we’re starting to expand or build a program and starting to take on responsibility that might be some other agency’s responsibility."
School Board Member Joseph Como said he would like more information about how the program would work with the other schools, in preventing addiction, as was previously discussed, and also in identifying students for the program. He was also concerned about keeping an eye on the students once they’ve completed Project Change.
“Once someone is addicted, there is always possibility for relapse," Como said. "We need to keep these kids on our radar, even when they’ve gone through the program. How are we going to do that?”
Parents and others concerned about the program spoke during the public comment portion of the school board meeting.
Dinah Van Krevel-Polzin, a member of the leadership team of the Waukesha County Drug-Free Communities Coalition (DFC) and also of the focus group, said that she looked forward to further collaboration with the school district regarding this issue.
“The cost of not dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse is already astronomical," she said. "Increasing the number of beds at the county jail is not profitable. Educating and saving our youth is. This is risky business that needs to be addressed and Waukesha School District already has in place. We can continue to enhance and embrace it by working together."
A mother of a student at Project Change said that since the focus group has started, she has felt more positive about the future of the program. She also said that enrollment could be increased by simply increasing knowledge of the program, adding that that not many know about it, “which is a shame.”
Her son has completely turned his life around since working with Project Change and teacher Tracy Mitchell, she said.
Two other audience members registered their support of the program.