Despite concerns about mixing students with criminals, Louisiana’s top school board Wednesday approved a $100,000 contract for students expelled from state-run public schools in Baton Rouge.
The contract will allow AMIKids Baton Rouge to serve up to 60 students at a time when they are expelled from any of the seven public schools in Baton Rouge in the Recovery School District.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the contract without dissent.
But BESE member Carolyn Hill, who lives in Baton Rouge, said AMI works with “kids that have gone through the judicial system” and have “severe criminal histories.”
Hill said most AMI contracts involved corrections officials. “I am really concerned,” she said.
RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard said AMI offers a wide range of services. “Our kids will be in a separate component,” Dobard said.
AMI’s services were “fully vetted” and officials understand concerns of those like Hill, he said.
“We will monitor it,” Dobard told BESE members.
The contract applies to students expelled from Lanier Elementary School, Dalton Elementary School, Prescott Middle School, Crestworth Learning Academy, Glen Oaks Middle School, Istrouma High School and Capitol High School.
All seven were taken over by the state after years of academic failure.
The contract allows up to 15 expelled students at a time to get alternative education services at the AMI facility in north Baton Rouge.
If more than 15 need assistance, they will be served at the Prescott Middle School building, which is the headquarters for the RSD-LA.
RSD-LA oversees public schools outside of New Orleans run by the state.
The students are supposed to get academic, behaviorial and mental health help.
AMI offers a residential program, alternative education services, partnerships with school districts, programs for students subject to court orders and family services.
Those expelled for drugs or weapons get additional assistance.
AMI serves about 105,000 students in nine states, according to information supplied by the state Department of Education.
The list includes nine facilities in Louisiana.
State officials have tried to cancel the program twice but both times the Legislature prevented that.
The executive director of AIMKids Baton Rouge, who is a former teacher, said earlier this year that his staff tries to form lasting bonds with everyone they assist.
The contract means that the state will pay AIM $55 per day per student for the current school year.
Dobard told BESE that he tried to work out an arrangement with the East Baton Rouge Parish school system for handling expelled students.
He said the state could not afford what EBR officials sought.
Dobard said later that the local school system wanted $385 per elementary student and $120 per middle and high school student per day.
East Baton Rouge Parish school officials did not respond to a request for comment.