Dec 12, 2012 11:26 PM by Maddie Garrett

LPSB Considers Private Company to Run Alternative Program

The Lafayette Parish School Board discussed the possibility of bringing in a private company to run an alternative program in the parish. The program would be housed in portable buildings on the campus of the new N.P. Moss Preparatory School, however it wouldn't be part of the school.

The alternative program is designed for students who would otherwise be suspended or expelled. The company in question is AMIKids, a company that isn't new to Acadiana. AMIKids is the non-profit that currently runs a residential juvenile facility in Branch, LA.

After a slurry of questions from school board members Monday night, the main issue was how much would AMIKids cost the parish?

"I'm just saying let's think this through, let's try to get the partners I totally agree with that, before we go out and spend over and above what we've already budgeted," said board member Tommy Angelle during the meeting.

For 30 students, AMI puts the cost at $368,000 a year. If implemented this January, the cost is $182,000 for the first six months start up. But the school system wouldn't have to pay for all of it, Lafayette Consolidated Government and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office have committed to help.

"LCG is going to make a commitment on this at least for the first year and if we can create a successful model I think the partnership needs to continue," LCG Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux told the board.

The cost stays the same even if all 30 spots aren't filled, which is the case right now. But Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper said that could change.

"I think it's going to fill a big need that we had in terms of how we deal with these children that don't behave in a regular classroom setting," said Cooper.

AMI said the "Daily Treatment" program that would be in Lafayette addresses academic and extreme behavioral needs.

"It's family like, but again within the family there is a strong focus on how discipline and high expectations are in place both for academics but also for behavior," explained AMIKids Director of Education Services Eric Hall.

Sheriff Mike Neustrom serves on the board of AMI's residential program in Branch. He said he believes it's better to invest in juveniles now to prevent much more costly incarceration later.

"The question is, are we going to try to do something about it now or are we going to wait five or ten years from now and say we need another adult facility?" Neustrom told the board.

To put things in perspective, the school system spends about $8,000 per student, AMI's program would cost around $10,000 - $12,000 per student. AMI-kids contract will move to an introductory item at the next school board meeting.



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