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JPS To Offer Personalized Program To GA Students

The Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education approved the creation nine new positions within the school district at Tuesday’s regular meeting. The positions will serve a new Special Education Personalized Learning Program at the district’s Tech Academy for 16 returning students from the Gustavus Adolphus Family Services Learning Center that is anticipated to close by Feb. 14. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

In anticipation of the Gustavus Adolphus Family Services Learning Center closure, Jamestown Public Schools created nine new positions to offer 16 returning students a Special Education Personalized Learning Program.

Dr. Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, said the establishment of the program would allow the students to remain in their “home city.”

In order to serve two 8:1:1 classrooms with one at the high school and another at the middle school level, the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education approved the new positions within the school district at Tuesday’s regular meeting. The new positions include one principal, one school psychologist, one home-school liaison, two special education teachers and four paraprofessionals.

A presentation was provided by Brett Muscarella, director of special education, and Michelle McDowell, chief academic officer, to the board at Tuesday’s meeting regarding the plans for the personalized learning program (PLP).

“This has been a really tough situation for us to work through but I just want to publicly thank the GALC,” Muscarella said.

The program will be hosted at the district’s Tech Academy where school officials will utilize a blended learning curriculum through Edgenuity, a K-12 online curriculum provider.

While not the primary goal, the district will actually see a cost savings by offering the new program to returning students from the Learning Center.

The anticipated total cost of the program is estimated to be $476,450. The district currently pays GA Family Services $586,624 to provide services to these 16 students.

“(PLP) can provide a best practice model and these kids don’t have to go across the county. They can stay in their home city and the math just worked out in our favor,” Apthorpe said.

The Learning Center is anticipated to close on Feb. 14.

GA Family Services, managed by Lutheran Social Services, announced in November it would be closing its Learning Center and its Residential Treatment Center.

“This decision was not sudden or taken lightly; it has been in discussion for several years which has been documented and provided to the union,” said Tom Holt, GA Family Services president and CEO, recently.

School officials determined that the returning students needed a therapeutic program, a small environment and a personalized curriculum.

JAMESTOWN HIGH SCHOOL

Following November incidents that led to votes of no confidence in the former JHS principal, Dr. Rosemary Bradley, being held, the school district implemented a multi-faceted plan to assist the high school. At Tuesday’s meeting, Stephanie Sardi, Jamestown Teachers Association president, thanked the board of education and the district administration for their quick response in December.

“You along with Dr. Apthorpe implemented a plan to allow a healing process to begin and to make modifications to daily procedures providing 1,200 students and 200 staff members a place to work where at the very least they felt safe. From all of them, thank you,” Sardi said to the board.

A Nov. 6 incident, involving a fight among students, led to the Jamestown Police Department responding to the high school and an emergency lockdown procedure being administered.

After backlash of the incident, the school district released a statement regarding its actions. In the days following, the district stated that immediate action was taken as a result of the lockdown that included implementing additional safety training and drills that will take place with formal debriefings; assigning a JPD officer to JHS if the current school resource officer is absent; providing additional radios for the JHS emergency response team; updating photos of all JHS students made accessible to staff; providing de-escalation training for staff during professional development; investigating contemporary security systems through the potential capital project plan to modernize JHS; and identifying at-risk students for intervention at the Tech Academy where personalized learning plans will be completed prior to return to JHS.

Since then, Bradley resigned and Dana Williams was appointed as the interim principal. Apthorpe also announced at the board meeting that the high school principal position had been posted to job sites with the hope of filling that position for a July 1 start date.

Sardi also called attention to the other buildings in the district. She called for a review of each school building’s behavioral and safety concerns among staff and students to improve district policies.

ESPORTS

A committee created to research the value of potentially adding an esports program to the school district recommended a spring 2020 pilot program be created.

Esports, or electronic sports, is commonly used to refer to competitive, team-oriented video game use in organized events.

The committee was charged with determining if esports is a possible medium to connect more students to school and potentially serve as a method to improve attendance.

The recommended JHS Esports Club would potentially incorporate 16 to 24 students in ninth grade with two advisers. The games would be limited to those with an “E” rating, which stands for “everyone.”

Estimated costs for the club total $9,600 for equipment, software and advisers.

In the committee’s presentation, it also offered insight into future consideration of a fully competitive esports program at the middle school and high school levels. This fully competitive program would be organized from September through June with up to 24 students per building participating in fall and spring seasons.

Estimated costs for a full program totaled $80,000 in the first year and a recurring cost of $10,000 that included costs for equipment, software, league fees and advisers.

However, no action was taken by the board regarding an esports program or club.

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