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March 7, 2014

Jasper Youth Treatment Center a no go

Jasper — The Jasper Youth Treatment Center (JYTC) has been officially scrapped by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (FDJJ), according to Hamilton County Superintendent of Schools Thomas Moffses.

Moffses said he received an e-mail from the FDJJ around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 5, stating the FDJJ was breaking off negotiations and would not be opening the JYTC.

On June 19, 2013, the FDJJ had sent the school district an “Invitation to Negotiate” stating they were seeking to open a 40-bed residential program for low to moderate risk boys ages 14-18, that would utilize the old Panther facility at 11180 NE 38 St. in Jasper. The school district responded July 18, 2013, letting the FDJJ know they were aware of the proposal and that the facility could be opening in the district if awarded.

Nothing more was communicated until Nov. 20, when the school district asked for a status update from the FDJJ. The next day the FDJJ responded, stating the JYTC would be opening on Jan. 13, 2014. Vendors were showing up at the school district office, however, Moffses said he had no idea what was taking place because there was no cooperative agreement in place yet.

On Dec. 19, 2013, a meeting was held between the school district, the FDJJ, representatives from the Florida Department of Education (DOE), as well as FADSS (Florida Association of District School Superintendents), represented by Senator Bill Montford and staff attorney Joy Frank, but there was no resolution.

At the Jan.13 school board meeting the issue was discussed at length but no decision was made by the school board. Coming mid budget year for a financially constrained district, HCSD was looking at an approximate revenue loss of $220,000 if they agreed to sign the contract, Moffses explained.

The school district’s position was (1) Backed by statutes that state a cooperative agreement must be in place before FDJJ can open a facility and seat students; (2) A cooperative agreement had not been finalized; (3) The school district intended to contract with vendor G4S to provide all educational services. The superintendent and the board's calculation had to be based upon directly providing the services of what might be necessary if the contractor was not hired or had to be discharged. The school district noted that G4S was on board at Avon Park for a riot that all but destroyed that facility. (4) A contract with G4S was pending a cooperative agreement with FDJJ; (5) And an alternative FTE count was requested for the week ending March 14, 2014, to address FDJJ’s student population to ensure a maximum amount of students in house during the count.

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