GERMANTOWN HILLS — The Mason, Tazewell and Woodford Counties Regional Office of Education 53 Safe School and Academy can make a difference between a successful life and the inability for a continuing education or a good job later.

ROE Regional Superintendent Patrick Durley said the alternative school is a real need for students.

“Obviously one size does not fit all,” said Durley. “Some kids with great gifts cannot function in a school situation.

“It is more ideal now for kids to come out of school with a diploma so they can really have a fighting chance getting into a junior college.”

The safe school and academy have moved to a new location in Germantown Hills where it will share the costs with two other agencies and perhaps enlist those agencies assistance later with students at the safe school.

The school was previously located at Homewood School in Creve Coeur, said Durley, but the building there needed a great deal of work. It is now located at 110 Fandel Road, Germantown Hills. ROE 53 covers Mason, Tazewell and Woodford counties. The former Germantown Primary School is now leased by the ROE, Easter Seals and Woodford County Special Education. There are 16 students at ROE 53, but that will increase to between 20 and 30 during the year as students with special needs are identified.

The Regional Office of Education will hold a ribbon cutting and open house starting at 3:15 p.m. on Sept. 11.

ROE 53 is funded by General State Aid, tuition from the home district and grants.

The safe school is two-fold and has two programs in the same facility. 

The academy is for drop-outs or students at risk of dropping out. It is a credit recovery program to help students meet the graduation requirements in their home districts, said Durley. It is a self-paced program.

The second program is the Regional Safe School Program. The students change classes and teachers teach the classes so that it is easier for the student when they go back to their home school.

“That program is for a student that has difficulty, for whatever reason, remaining in their home school,” said Durley. “Typically it’s disciplinary issues — multiple suspensions, expulsion eligible or expelled.

“It’s general seventh- through 12th-grade. The ultimate goal is return back to their home, but of course it could depend on when they come in (to the safe school). Some come with us and end up staying (here) and (then) graduating with a diploma through their home school.”

Pekin District 303 Superintendent Danielle Owens said that typically five to 10 students annually attend the school programs there.

“Academy students are students who apply to attend there who need (or) want a smaller setting for various reasons, but typically are students who are struggling in a mainstream setting of their home school,” said Owens. “(RSSP) students are typically students who have been expelled from their home school or who are being placed there by their home school for reasons that they are close to expulsion and need a different setting to potentially have success.

“The services that these two programs offer are a great resource to PCHS and other area schools. It is nice to have the option of another placement for students who are not finding success in our building.”

The disciplinary issues of RSSP students vary and do not necessarily impact the enrollment in the safe school. The parents and students apply for entrance into the program with the help of the of the home school district.

“Typically we don’t turn kids away,” said Durley. “The one thing that can complicate it is their need with an (Individualized Education Plan).

“If they require services that we can’t offer due to the nature of their IEP, then we’re not able to service their needs. Then typically the school district looks for an alternative route. We’re not staffed to meet extremely high-need students.”

The IEP, by state law, identifies the student’s need, what the services are and the number of minutes of instruction required.

Durley said those students could be placed at the Kiefer School in Peoria, which is for high behavioral disorder students, said Durley.

Previously teachers had specific areas of study to teach such as math, science and so on.

“There weren’t enough teachers, so the state went with a more general way of teaching,” said Durley.

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin