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PV school trustees to consider anti-drug programs, Aptos High field plans

Posted: Monday, Oct 7th, 2013


The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees is finalizing plans for the new Aptos High School athletic field at the entrance to the campus. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)


WATSONVILLE — When students are suspended or expelled for having drugs on campus or being under the influence, it’s not just the students that suffer.

During the 2011-12 school year, Pajaro Valley Unified School District lost more than $229,000 due to suspended students, and more than $242,000 when they were expelled.

The district’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday will hear plans to expand programs designed to keep kids away from drugs, to keep those found with them at school and to provide the support they need after they are caught. They will also consider a plan to begin drug prevention services for fifth-graders.

The trustees will also hear a budget update, and will consider use guidelines for the new athletic field at Aptos High School.

Education officials have long known that absent kids means lost daily per-student funding, which has prompted battles by school districts to steer them away from deleterious behavior.

But those efforts have often led to suspensions of up to five days, which the officials say removes the students from school and returns them home where they are largely unsupervised.

Aptos High School piloted the Suspension Diversion program in the last semester of the 2012-13 school year, which reduced its expulsion rates by more than 34 percent. Instead of kicking kids out, however, the program keeps them in. Under the program, students are sent home for the first day, and then given a three-day, in-school suspension in which the student are given support services such as counseling and monthly follow-up meetings.

In addition, the program gives the students access to one-on-one interaction with teachers and guidance counselors.

“We’re looking for alternatives to discipline,” said PVUSD child welfare and attendance coordinator ShaKenya Edison. “We’re trying to have an approach that is student-friendly and student-focused.”

The trustees are slated to consider expanding the Suspension Diversion program into other high schools.

The trustees will also consider a report on the Valor program, designed to help fifth-grade students who are at risk of joining gangs or who have family members involved in gangs or high-risk behaviors.

The program, which would cost $85,000 per school year, includes working with parents, counseling, encouraging “pro-social” activities such as after-school programs and college tours.

In another attempt to help bolster its anti-drug programs, the district will also consider expanding a program that currently uses drug-sniffing dogs at three PVUSD schools. They will consider expanding it to all the high schools and middle schools.

The trustees approved the plan in March to use a trained canine to conduct random checks for drugs and weapons at Aptos High School, New School and Academic Vocational Charter Institute. According to the district, Hilmar-based Proactive K-9’s preformed 14 checks in Spring 2013, and found one student in possession of marijuana.

However, principals at the schools say that the threat of the search has deterred several students from bringing contraband to school.

If the trustees approve the plan to bring drug sniffing dogs to all the secondary schools, it would cost approximately $20,000.

Finally, the trustees will consider a resolution governing Freedom Field, the controversial athletic field at Aptos High School, located near the entrance to Aptos High School at the intersection of Freedom Boulevard and Mariner Way. The field is currently a dirt lot.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors unanimously gave final approval to the project on Sept. 11 after hearing reports from district officials and concerns from local residents about traffic, parking, safety and environmental issues.

The guidelines before the trustees include locking the field when not in use, parking and traffic controls and use restrictions, in addition to not installing stadium lighting or amplified sound.

“We’ll do everything we can do to maintain communication and be as good a neighbor as we can be,” said PVUSD Chief Business Officer Brett McFadden.

Santa Cruz County construction guidelines restrict most grading projects between Oct. 15 and April 15. Construction is expected to begin after that. McFadden said the field is estimated to be ready in the later half of 2014.

•••

Other business

• The trustees will discuss awarding a contract for bottled water service at several portable elementary school classrooms, where there is no access to drinking water. The recommended contract is for Pure Water Bottling of Salinas for 15,972.

• They will also consider awarding a $207,000 contract to AA Safe and Lock to rekey classrooms and other buildings at 16 PVUSD schools.

•••

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the District Office Boardroom at 292 Green Valley Road in Watsonville. For information, visit www.pvusd.net.

Look for a full story of the PVUSD Board of Trustees meeting Thursday at www.register-pajaronian.com.

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