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KJCC High School Holds First-Ever Open House

by Cheryl Cadue last modified Jan 03, 2017 12:04 PM
Youth at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Facility Complex (KJCC) recently had the opportunity to show off their schoolwork and introduce their parents and caregivers to their teachers at the facility's newly-renovated Lawrence-Gardner High School (LGHS).

While commonplace in most schools, seeing a parent meeting with teachers and praising their children’s schoolwork in the halls of a juvenile correctional facility is often impractical. Yet, this was the scene at LGHS November 22 when the Topeka juvenile correctional facility held its first open house following the school's $12,000 makeover that included painting walls and updating furniture.

“Parents and caregivers of juvenile offenders in placement away from home or in a correctional facility are often unable to participate in the educational experience,” said KJCC Deputy Superintendent Megan Milner. “They are invited to program planning conferences and even [Individualized Education Program] planning sessions, but it’s not normal to see parents roaming the halls of school or casually meeting with the individuals teaching their child.”

To make the open house possible, school staff volunteered to come in on a Saturday so the open house could coincide with KJCC’s regular visitation times. Male and female youth walked their parents and family members back to the school to enjoy refreshments while introducing teachers and showing off their classwork.

The mother of one female offender shed a few tears as she expressed gratitude for being able to see first-hand the work her daughter was doing and to hear teachers’ accolades of her daughter’s progress. Family members also were able to view projects built in the NCCER construction program, provided through a partnership with KJCC, LGHS and the Washburn Institute of Technology.

Steve Backman, LGHS principal, called the school's unprecedented open house a success.

“The pride from teachers, staff, family members and students appeared on everyone’s faces,” Backman said.” There for 4 hours, I felt the walls of the institution were unnoticed and none of it would have been possible without the blessings and support from the KJCC administration, operations and clinical staff.”

LGHS hosted the open house in conjunction with the school's first-ever LGHS Spirit Week. Teachers dressed according to different themes each day. The themes were: Triumphant Tuesday – where teachers dressed as superheroes; Wacky Wednesday – where teachers dressed crazily; and 80s Thursday – where teachers dressed in 80s fashions.

Patty Welbourn, a 19-year veteran LGHS teacher, said many of her students had been expelled from school or had moved to a different placement before their previous schools had held homecoming festivities.

“Not only did this give students a brief experience with what some might consider a normal high school experience, it made it hard to be upset or to have a bad day when the teachers were dressed in theme,” said Welbourne.

The conclusion of the week with the open house also enabled students to get their parents and caregivers involved in a postive way not only with their school but also with KJCC, said Deputy Superintendent Milner.

“Facilitating involvement and engagement from parents and caregivers is a crucial part of what we are trying to do with these youth and this was one more way KJCC could open our doors and invite families inside,” Milner said.

KJCC Renovation Photos:





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