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Thorpe affirms contract with youth agency

Published August 27. 2014 01:30PM

Months of negotiations culminated Tuesday night as Jim Thorpe Area School District approved a two-year agreement with the Youth Services Agency, a nonprofit that houses high-risk youth in the juvenile justice system.

While the agreement will reportedly keep the majority of the troubled youth in classes at YSA's Penn Forest Township facility, an undetermined number of YSA students may still end up in Jim Thorpe's schools this year.

"There will be a screening process for every YSA student, and it will be determined if they would be a good candidate to be educated in our schools," Gasper said.

"The children at YSA are there for a reason. I can't give an exact number of how many would come here or how many would stay at YSA, but those children have had issues at home or at school. YSA is best equipped to deal with that type of situation," Gasper said.

The agreement, for which financial details were not released Tuesday night, was approved by a 6-2 vote with board members Glen Confer and Walter Schultz voting against it. Dr. Michael Principe was absent.

"Parents came to us with concerns, and we have to be able to reassure them that no matter what, these kids are not coming to our schools," Confer said.

"I know if we don't accept this, they would all be coming to our school, but I'm skeptical about this."

Jim Thorpe had faced the possibility of taking in all the students, approximately 45 at last count, after YSA threatened to stop providing education to the juveniles. YSA officials said the district was not providing the agency with adequate funding.

State law requires that school districts educate juvenile offenders in the district where the detention center is located.

Gasper said the agreement is a "win-win" for the district and YSA.

"It will allow us to maintain the safety and security of our students," Gasper said.

Hundreds of concerned parents attended a public meeting in June, but Tuesday's vote drew only two audience members, neither of which addressed the board.

"I think the residents will be very happy with this agreement," said board member John Ciavarella.

Schultz disagreed.

"This is a moral issue of right and wrong," he said. "Nobody gave consideration to the people of this town. YSA doesn't supervise those kids properly up there. Every month kids are escaping. They've already escaped, broke into a home and tied someone up. I don't want any of them in this school system."

The board, also on Tuesday, approved the resignation of Kyle Parrish, seventh- and eighth-grade long-term substitute language arts teacher and hired Katherine Kraky to replace Parrish at a prorated salary of $43,702.

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