Project Change, a charter school that serves Waukesha County students fighting drug and alcohol addictions, will shut its doors in January. But that doesn’t mean local school officials are turning away from the students.
“We never plan on abandoning that program,” said Waukesha Superintendent Todd Gray.
The Waukesha School Board voted unanimously to dissolve the charter school Wednesday night after no students from the Waukesha School District enrolled for the 2013-14 school year. However, over the next few months, school district staff will be working with CESA 1 to serve the students.
The change will allow the school district to have more flexibility in helping educate students who are also working to remain sober. Four students are planned for enrollment this fall from Oconomowoc, Pewaukee, Kettle Moraine and Arrowhead school districts. The cost per student to attend for the school district is more than $25,000, according a school district’s document.
Other communities are turning to Waukesha because they don’t have programs in place, according to School Board Member Steve Edlund.
“You can’t sit here in denial,” Edlund said. “Waukesha County has one of the worst problems in terms of heroin in the whole country. … This is a problem that affects everybody in every community. I can’t imagine what these parents go through. I can’t imagine.
The Waukesha School District will work with the families from the four high school students planning to attend Project Change, keeping them updated on changes during the transition time. During the next few months, the Waukesha School District will develop a program to take the place of Project Change, according to school district officials.
Board Member Patricia Madden still wishes the charter school was successful, but said it takes more than school involvement for students to enroll in the program.
“It is denial mostly. Until kids realize that and parents realize that, it is not going to happen,” Madden said. “As long as we still have the service somewhere … then I am OK with it. Otherwise I would be glad to spend that $90,000 if it was one kid in our district.”
However, the change didn’t sit well with everyone. Paul Reese, who frequently attends school board meetings, shared the biblical story of the Good Samaritan as he opposed the closure of the Project Change school.
“I don’t feel that this would be a waste,” Reese said. The reason I don’t feel this would be a waste is found in Luke 10. … I wonder how many Good Samaritans there are here tonight.”
Karin Rajnicek, who has been on the school board since 2011, said, while using the allegory of the Good Samaritan, the plan is to help the children in a different way.
“I picture us picking up those children. The place we took them to before is not the only answer, it is not the only way,” Rajnicek said. “We are not dropping them, we are not laying them on the side of the road.”
Overall, Rajnicek said she wants to see increased prevention and awareness in the schools to keep students from falling into addictions.“I want to help kids to not ever end up in that place,” Rajnicek said.
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