Polk County Public Schools believes every student can have a successful future — no matter what has happened in his or her past. The school district has several programs designed to help at-risk students make positive changes in their lives, develop constructive attitudes and behaviors, and complete their K-12 education.
Department of Juvenile Justice & At-Risk Programs
Through cooperative agreements, Polk County Public Schools partners with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Children and Family Services to provide educational staffing at multiple sites, including:
- Bartow Youth Academy
- Highlands Youth Academy
- PACE Center for Girls
- Polk Halfway House
- Polk County Sheriff’s Office Central Center
- Polk County Sheriff’s Office Regional Detention Center
The mission of Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and Children and Family Services sites is to develop attitudes, behaviors and skills so that students may be successful, both academically and socially, upon returning to school and the community.
The mission is based on the vision that all students can become self-directed, caring, productive citizens and lifelong learners, and prepared to be successful in the technologically and culturally changing world.
Types of Programs
The Department of Juvenile Justice’s education programs fall into two types: At Risk and Juvenile Justice. At Risk programs serve students who have been identified by the school system as being at risk of dropping out of school. Juvenile Justice programs serve students who have been adjudicated and assigned to Department of Juvenile Justice programs by the courts.
Both types of programs work with students who have one or more of the following problems: learning disabilities, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, mental health disorders, school dropout risk factors, family crises, juvenile delinquency, and socialization conduct disorders. These problems contribute to declines in academic performance.
The sites are managed by two assistant principals in the DJJ department. All sites are supported by resource specialists in specific areas, such as regulatory compliance therapy, ESE, etc. Education staff are also supported by paraprofessionals and adjudicated youth specialists.
Following a review of educational records, an Individual Academic Improvement (AIP) is developed for each student, based on test results in conjunction with verbal interviews.
Approximately 30-40 percent of the students served at any given time at these sites are ESE students. An Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is developed for these students. Students’ needs and deficits are identified upon their entry into a program. Students are given a full battery of diagnostic/prescriptive assessments.
Students 16 years of age or older, who desire to obtain a General Educational Development (GED), are screened to determine their potential for success. A plan is developed to help them prepare for the GED using computer software and GED study materials. More than 70 percent of students taking the GED pass on their first try.
The curriculum offered at each site includes high school courses in language arts, math, social studies and science. Most sites offer vocational training in one or more of the following areas: agriculture, aquaculture farming, business, computer repair, building maintenance and digital printing. All courses, as well as guidance counseling, ESOL and ESE services, are provided by certified teachers. Psychological counseling and drug awareness services are offered by supplemental staff.