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Gold Ridge Ed Center To School Juvenile Offenders

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Sonora, CA – When Tuolumne County’s new juvenile detention facility opens later this fall its onsite school will be ready to be in session, too.

As previously reported here, the county board of supervisors received a construction update last month. Back in April the County Board of Education trustees approved the adoption of a county-district school code, clearing the way for an educational institution that will be called Gold Ridge Education Center to operate there and be officially recognized as an entity by the State Board of Education.

Further outlining the plans and processes, County Superintendent Margie Bulkin shares, “The next step that we are engaged in right now is a Memo of Understanding with the county government to provide the educational services required under the Ed Code.”

Outlining Start-up Plans

In order to apply for the code, Bulkin says, her office had to outline minimum operational criteria, which includes both a ten-month and a two-month classroom instructor to maintain the program year-round, as required by state law; and administrative oversight, which will tentatively be an administrator shared with the county’s alternative education program.

The education program, as Bulkin describes, will align with the minimum state standards for students to achieve a high school diploma. Too, she adds, “We will seek out career pathways for students who term out of the detention center, and come back into the real world. We have every intention to build those pathways and…are already working on the initial plans on what would be the natural pathways…likely fields for these students to be able to get some training in.”

While Bulkin maintains that it is still too premature to reveal potential partners are, her office is developing partnerships to help rehabilitate students back into being “functional contributing citizens” in the community. She confides that the county would be modeling on other counties that have been successful in delivering career pathway models for incarcerated youth that yield opportunities for employment. Of course, as she points out, “Because of their offenses, you have to work with employment partners who are willing to take on an exiting student out of the juvenile detention system.”

Diploma Focus With Career Path Opportunities

Admittedly, Bulkin comments, “It is a ways down the road, so there is a  lot to make clear — so we can go public about what those opportunities will look like.” The main thing, she states, “What we are focused on – is making sure we have a diploma pathway in place for all of these students to achieve while they are there…then finding the career component will come next.”

Although Bulkin did not name which regions the new program might emulate, court schools across the state offer a number of career pathways; among them, construction technology, forestry work, animal husbandry.

As for funding, in order to run a full-fledged program, Bulkin estimates there will need to be a minimum of 10 to 12 students. “With that said, obviously we are committed at the county office to fill in the gaps at the beginning — to make sure that we can fully fund one teacher to begin operating a full program,” she says.

Privileged To Help Brighten Futures 

While it is her office’s responsibility to see that students in the juvenile detention facility system are provided with an adequate education to state standards, Bulkin describes that she also sees it as a great privilege and honor to contribute towards positive outcomes for students who have had or made negative choices.

“That is what we are invested in…seeing these kids through to a brighter future and offering them opportunities to connect after they served their time,” Bulkin enthuses. “I could not be happier working with the county agencies that make the collaborative run so smoothly. We have a lot yet to see unfold — but we are looking forward to the outcome.”