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Jim Thorpe School Board to meet Tuesday on YSA agreement

Published August 22. 2014 12:59PM

Jim Thorpe Area School District and the Youth Services Agency have reached a tentative two-year agreement regarding the placement of students from a local facility for troubled youth.

Brian Gasper, Jim Thorpe superintendent, said Thursday that a special school board meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Tuesday to finalize the agreement.

"Essentially what the agreement does is allow the district to sit down with YSA and evaluate the YSA students on a case-by-case basis to see which ones would be good candidates to be educated in our high school," Gasper said.

"We expect that given the volatile nature of a lot of those students, the number of them coming here would be small."

YSA representatives were not available for comment Thursday.

Camp Adams is located within district boundaries in Penn Forest Township and currently has just shy of 50 students. Enrollment numbers change daily, Gasper said.

"According to the law, even though those students don't live in the district, they must be permitted to attend Jim Thorpe schools," Gasper said. "Those students are placed with YSA by the courts."

After each student is evaluated, those who are not "good candidates to attend Jim Thorpe" will remain at the YSA facility.

"If the district and YSA jointly agree that a student should be here at Jim Thorpe, they will be here."

The two sides have negotiated at length after YSA officials claimed it was not receiving enough funding from Jim Thorpe and might close its doors after 10 years in operation.

YSA representatives have already signed the new agreement, Gasper said. He would not, however, discuss specific financial terms of the deal.

"Is it going to cost us some money, sure," Gasper said. "Every negotiation has its give and take. We think this is a fair agreement for everyone."

Upon learning of the possibility YSA students may be attending Jim Thorpe schools, a large number of parents expressed concern over their children attending school with youth who have a criminal background.

"We asked the parents to trust us and ensured them we would put the student's safety at the forefront," Gasper said. "We continued to do that in this plan. This agreement not only protects Jim Thorpe students, but also the students with YSA."

Gasper said YSA student evaluations would be completed as quickly possible so anyone who needed to enroll in the district could be registered.

The agreement came together within the last three weeks.

"YSA got new legal counsel and that really signaled a change in their approach," Gasper said. "Their focus turned to the needs of the child."

As part of the agreement, three Jim Thorpe staff members would be working at Camp Adams during the school year. Gasper said they would be providing special education services as well as crisis intervention. Previously, only one district employee worked out of the YSA facility.

"Our board has been informed every step of the way and I anticipate they are going to approve this agreement on Tuesday," Gasper said.

School opens Wednesday in the district.

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