Well, it's back-to-school time in Central Texas, or is it? One school is like no other. Williamson County Juvenile Services-- within the Georgetown school district boundary--holds classes for three student populations every academic year and this time, amidst a continuing pandemic.
The three groups include detention students awaiting their court appearance, residential treatment program students, and community students who have been expelled to the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program by their local school district.
To plan classes for this juvenile facility serving the largest number of school districts in the state, Tara Stewart, new principal at the Juvenile Justice Center, has been meeting virtually for weeks with the school's registrar, administrative assistant and 16 teachers.
To operate the Juvenile Services school requires a budget of over $1 million, to which every school district contributes based on student attendance. Typically, the highest number of students attending are from the Round Rock school district, as it is the largest district.
Most in the juvenile system tend to be middle and high schoolers, but ages can range from 10 to 18.
For the first three weeks of school beginning Aug. 17, students expelled from their school districts but at home will participate in distance learning. In-person learning for these students is scheduled to start Sept. 8.
Since teachers share teaching spaces, Stewart said the Georgetown district has provided noise-cancelling headphones, hotspots and laptops for all students, both residential and those distance learning at home.
Students will be using Google Classroom to complete assignments and submit them. Instruction will be synchronous, and students will have independent work time that may be away from a computer.
Getting kids to complete their coursework is challenging. Most of these students are already behind academically, so keeping them engaged in learning is difficult.
The overall goal is ensuring students remain within the scope and sequence of their home district, so they will return to their home school prepared to thrive.
If non-residents aren't making progress, the center sends case managers to their homes and also offers virtual counseling to help them overcome their setbacks.