Drug treatment program seeks to be charter school

A teen drug treatment program is seeking a charter for a high school tonight from the San Mateo County Board of Education.

Daytop California, a nonprofit that runs the Daytop Preparatory Academy residential rehabilitation program, hopes to open a charter school with a class of 25 ninth- through 12th-grade students with substance-abuse problems. The organization treats more than 40 children with drug abuse issues in its facilities in Redwood City and Belmont, many referred by county mental health officials and various courts.

But not through the San Mateo County probation office, which pulled its students from Daytop at the end of last year. County officials did not return calls on the matter Tuesday, but Daytop Executive Director Orville Roached said their concerns had included a need for better communication and an incident in which a student had accessed a propane tank. He denied allegations of a lack of discipline made by at least one former resident. Daytop has since created a corrective action plan and is waiting for the county to decide whether to return its probationers.

Paulette Johnson, director of communication for the Office of Education, said it would be premature to say whether the county’s decision would affect the charter application.

Daytop already runs a private school for special-education students, some of whose tuition is paid by the county, but has also been serving program residents who do not need special education, Principal Michael Malone said. It receives no tuition for those students, while charter school status will make the program eligible for state funding, Malone said.

“We’re providing educational services for all the residential students at Daytop. Right now, the school is providing services to both, but we’re getting no funding,” Malone said. “It will allow us to provide more individual and small-group activities.”

A public hearing tonight will allow Daytop Executive Director Orville Roache to make his case that the school will serve students throughout San Mateo County who cannot get this type of education elsewhere, Johnson said. The board does not vote tonight.

“Environment plays a role in some of these students’ choices. You’re better able to manage their behavior and better able to manage any crisis,” in a drug- and alcohol-free environment, Roache said, adding that Daytop hopes to expand the school to 50 to 60 students down the road.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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