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Posted: July 5, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Governor’s Office gets grant to help CLASS

The Newton County Juvenile Court received a $75,000 state grant to set up a daytime educational program to help reform suspended students by changing behavior and keeping them out of trouble.

The Governor’s Office for Children and Families provided the grant for the Center for Learning Alternatives for Suspended Students (CLASS), which is expected to be running by September. The program will run during regular school hours and will take suspended and expelled children off the streets and place them into a positive educational setting.

CLASS will emphasize good behavior and accountability and has the ultimate goal of getting children back into school and keeping them there, said Diana Summers, a research analyst for the Newton County Juvenile Court. Summers said at least one parent must attend a weekly parenting class while their child is in CLASS because family support is important to academic success.

Associate Judge Lisa Mantz said there will be two CLASS sessions throughout the year, each one running for 18 weeks and educating 10 children. The children will be in a setting smaller than a regular classroom with more structure and supervision. Fixing behavioral problems is the main goal, because having good behavior keeps children out of trouble and aids their learning process. Keeping the children on track academically is also a key function of CLASS.

"The majority of students who would be in CLASS are not allowed to attend school anymore because of the offenses they have committed. They’re not in school and (alone during) the middle of the day; that’s not a good place to be," Mantz said. "There is not a program that exists for what to do with that child during the day. Our community wants to make sure children are in school, not causing vandalism or anything else. I’m very excited about this program. It’s uncharted ground and we’re trying to be progressive and innovative."

This daytime program will be a complement to the existing Evening Reporting Center, which helps kids who are in after-school detention, and the Drug Court, which supervises and treats youth drug offenders.

The juvenile court can reapply for the $75,000 grant each of the next two school years, and if the program continues to be successful it will be funded through other sources after that, Summers said.

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