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Loss of Cassidy Lake GED program means $110,000 net loss to Chelsea School District

If you live in Sylvan or Lyndon township and the wind is blowing the right way, you may have heard inmates from the Cassidy Lake Special Alternative Incarceration program counting off while doing calesthetics.

Or perhaps you’ve seen them out on a work detail.

Began in 1988 as an alternative to prison for male probationers convicted of specific crimes, those inmates allowed to participate are selected by the courts, according to information about the program.

And, in 1992, the program was expanded to include women.

The inmates take part in several phases of a “highly-disciplined regimen of 90 days, consisting of military-style exercise, meaningful work assignments and other programming, including secondary education and substance-abuse treatment,” according to the state.

Then they are supervised while out in the community, sometimes in a halfway house.

“The goal of the program is to keep selected lower-risk probationers from going to prison and to take qualified prisoners out of the traditional prison setting and place them into a more cost-effective management setting,” according to information about the program.

They take classes in job-seeking skills, substance-abuse awareness and anger management. Inmates are also enrolled in General Educational Development preparation and Adult Basic Education.

And it’s the educational component where, for many years, the Chelsea District Schools was involved.

Until this year.

In a cost-savings move, the state Department of Corrections has taken over the GED program and not renewed its contract with the school district. Previously, the school district ran eight classrooms for the Adult Education program with about 20 student in each class, said Superintendent of Schools Andy Ingall in an email.

“We (were) the contracted Adult Education provider,” he says, so the staff were district employees, and some of those students counted toward the district’s total student count for state funding.

“We are estimating approximately $110,000 as the net loss,” he says of not having the contract renewed.

And although the jobs have been posted, there are no guarantees that the district employees involved who were involved in the program will be hired by the state.

Ingall says the district’s program at Cassidy Lake issued 306 GED’s in ten months. Compared to all other correctional facilities in the state, which has issued about 205 GED’s.
“We are very proud of the program and understand the DOC’s need to save money in economically difficult times,” he says.
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