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Coupeville plans detention center schooling

As the county’s Juvenile Detention Center prepares to open, Coupeville school officials are busy planning the educational programs offered at the facility.

The Coupeville School District is responsible for educating inmates at the 21-bed, $6.2 million facility.

The district is contracting with the Northwest Educational Service District to provide educational programs, said Superintendent Bill Myhr. He said it will cost an estimated $113,000 a year to operate the educational program.

He said it’s common for school districts to work with the ESD to provide such services. The ESD has similar arrangements in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

The educational program at the center will individually cater to the needs of the wide variety of juveniles detained at the center.

Tom Marrs, special services director for the service district, said that if a juvenile has a school background, then they would work to ensure they keep pace with their studies.

“Our goal would be to keep them on track so they won’t lose credits,” Marrs said.

He said if a juvenile has been on the streets and not in school then staff would work to connect them with a school, put them on track for a GED or specific job training.

“It’s a very individualized program for the student,” Marrs said.

The ESD has hired a teacher for the Island County Juvenile Detention Center. The teacher recently visited the detention center in Skagit County to get program ideas.

Myhr said the arrangement allows the program to be operated by an entity that is experienced serving detention centers without making a major impact on school district resources.

The state pays a basic education allowance for every student that is counted at the detention center. The money is funneled directly to the service district which is responsible for operating the center.

However, the funding does concern school officials due to the transient nature of juveniles detained at the center.

“It really is a crazy way to fund a system with a transient population,” Myhr said.

A typical juvenile detained at the center will stay approximately one week. Marrs estimated there will be the equivalent of 10 full-time students at the center.

Myhr is concerned about that because the state counts student enrollment at the beginning of every month and enrollment helps determine state funding.

If the population at the center is low, the school district would be responsible for making up any shortfalls.

Marrs said that provision is written into the contract with the school district in order to protect the Education Service District.

However, the service district has never exercised that provision of a contract.

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