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Calhoun County closes juvenile boot camp

Aug. 1, 2011 at 3:01 a.m.


OTHER CUTS

The Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program is the only program that has been cut during the ongoing budget workshops.

Judge Mike Pfeiffer said the rest of $1.2 million being sliced from the budget is coming out of department budget requests.

County officials are still working on the final budget, which isn't expected to be completed for a few weeks, Pfeiffer said.

PORT LAVACA - Calhoun County officials, hoping to make up a $1.2 million budget shortfall, are closing its juvenile boot camp.

In the wake of the recession, Calhoun County has had to cut about $4 million from its budget in the past two years.

This year, finding they once again needed to make significant budget reductions, County Judge Mike Pfeiffer and the county commissioners met with Calhoun school district Superintendent Billy Wiggins two weeks ago to discuss closing the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program. The court officially decided to close it last week, Wiggins said.

The boot camp opened in January 1999 as a program for students with recurring discipline problem and those in the juvenile probation system, Pfeiffer said.

During the years, the juvenile court system has handled more of these types of problems, Pfeiffer said.

This isn't the first time the boot camp program has wound up on the chopping block; the camp was temporarily closed by the Juvenile Probation Board in the summer of 2009 because the county discussed cutting funding. The county continued funding that year, reopening the program in October.

The county allotted $128,000 for the boot camp last year, and only eight students were enrolled by the end of the school year, Pfeiffer said. The program wasn't being used enough to keep it open.

"We support the school district and the teachers, but there's a point in time when it costs so much and you've got to look at how much it's really being used," Pfeiffer said.

The boot camp is closed as of this week. Pfeiffer said the county will save $128,000 by cutting the program.

The county is required by mandate to fund many programs. Since county officials are not required to fund the boot camp, the program was cut, Pfeiffer said.

With the boot camp closed, two drill sergeants will lose their their jobs, Pfeiffer said. The teacher assigned to the boot camp will be moved to either Hope High School or FLEX, the two alternative programs in the district.

Students who expected to return to boot camp in the fall will attend the FLEX campus, Wiggins said.

The only problem for the school district will be what to do with the students who have done things that require mandatory expulsion by the state. These students used to be sent to boot camp, but they will now be expelled to the street. Wiggins said they are looking for a place to send these students, but they haven't found a solution yet.

Wiggins said he is sorry to see the program go, but noted it is understandable, considering these economic times.

The school district went through its own cuts recently. The district closed Point Comfort Elementary as part of its budget cuts.

"It has been a good thing, but we certainly understand the difficult economic times that we're all in, and we'll do everything we can to absorb those kids back into the school district," Wiggins said.

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