Steve Turner, chair of Ada Youth Academy Committee, said his committee would be sending out an application to construct a youth academy for the Department of Juvenile Affairs (DJA).

Turner said the academy would not be a detention facility, but would be an academy to rehabilitate and educate at-risk youth in the custody of DJA.

 He said the committee visited a facility in the Aurora, Colo. area similar to the one DJA is interested in constructing in Oklahoma.

“These are kids that have been in trouble in different areas but these are not kids that need to be locked down,” Turner said.  “This is a facility where there are no fences.  There is no razor wire.  There are no bars.”

He said members of the committee conducted several interviews with people involved with the facility in Aurora.

“Maybe the most impressive was with the sheriff of Arapaho County who had been the sheriff there the entire time the facility had been open,” Turner said.  “In all this time, they had never been called to one assault on student-to-student nor one assault on student-to-staff.”

He said the facility in Ada would not house violent offenders, sex offenders or students with serious mental issues.

“There will be some with learning disabilities,” he said.  “Thirty-five percent of the students in the Aurora facility have learning disabilities.”

Jim Hamby, committee member, said he was initially very skeptical of the idea.   

After visiting the Aurora facility, he said would not be opposed to living on the same street as a similar facility.

“I went to Aurora a total skeptic and I came back a total advocate,” he said.  “I felt safer than I would on a regular high school campus.”

Turner said the facility would be in the vicinity of the current CLEET building.  He said the academy would be education-driven, hold 144 beds and would not impact the student count of local schools.  He said the academy would also employ between 106 and 120 people, with an average salary of $38,000 a year, plus benefits.

Turner said the facility will be funded entirely through the state.

“It would be funded by the contract per-pupil through the Office of Juvenile Affairs for the state of Oklahoma,” he said.

Turner said a proposal would be submitted by July 10.  If approved, the academy could be up and running as soon as July 2012.

Civic groups interested in hearing more about the youth academy may phone Mike Southard of Ada Jobs Foundation at (580) 235-0070.

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