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Warren County to move alternative education program

Diversified Minds to relocate to site being considered for new middle school

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The Diversified Minds Alternative Education program will be moved away from Ressie Jeffries Elementary School to a site in the eastern part of the county, school officials announced Friday.

The announcement came in a written statement bearing the school letterhead that was sent home with Ressie Jeffries students.

Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent for instruction at Warren County Public Schools, confirmed that the program will be moving to the Environmental Study Area, a 107-acre tract off of John Marshall Highway that is considered a likely site for a new middle school.

"Within the next week or so, we should be able to get it moved," Drescher said of the Diversified Minds program.

The written statement from Ressie Jeffries administrators said the current Diversified Minds building "will be empty for the remainder of the school year while future plans are determined."

The decision to move the program comes slightly more than a week after a 17-year-old boy was arrested at the Diversified Minds program. Sheriff's Office investigators said he had a .25 cal. handgun.

The mother of a Ressie Jeffries student responded by launching a petition drive calling for the program to be moved from its current location adjacent to Ressie Jeffries at 320 E. Criser Road. Alicia Johnson cited safety worries as the reason for the petition.

Johnson said she was "ecstatic" upon discovering the statement from school officials in her daughter's book bag Friday evening.

"It's a move in the right direction," Johnson said of the decision to move Diversified Minds.

Johnson, who had collected 95 signatures on her petition as of Friday, said she would continue to circulate it and present it at the March 8 School Board meeting "just to let them know the community has an opinion and just to let them know we continue to support them."

Johnson said she would also continue to press school officials for more effective responses to threats of gun violence in schools.

"Now my only concern is what kind of protocols are they going to take if the same thing happens again," she said, referring to last week's arrest.

Drescher said the school system is planning to complete the move of Diversified Minds without canceling any school days for students enrolled in the program.

"That's what taking some time, to get everything set up," he said.

The Diversified Minds program enrolls about 30 high school-age students. The students enter the program for various reasons, which can include classroom discipline problems, pregnancy and poor attendance.

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