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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014
Pasco Tribune

AMIKids Pasco told to be on lookout for new home

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LAND O' LAKES - AMIKids Pasco will be able to lease the old Richey Elementary School administration building for a second year, but Pasco County School Board members say the school for troubled teens should be on the lookout for another location after the agreement ends in 2014.

"They do need to take note that they need to find a different place," board Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said at a meeting last week.

AMIKids Pasco ran into funding problems last year when the nonprofit organization lost its contract with the state Department of Juvenile Justice and faced the possibility of shutting down.

AMIKids turned to the school board, which agreed to lease the organization the Richey Elementary building in New Port Richey for $1,500 a month, plus utilities. Under the agreement, which the board on Tuesday voted to extend for another year, AMIKids serves up to 50 students and receives most of the state funding that would have gone to the district for those students.

Board members approved the extension with some hesitation, expressing views that the school district is having to prop up the AMIKids operation when the organization was expected to be in better shape after receiving funding help this year from the state Legislature.

"I feel the time has come we have to say, 'Stand on your own if you are going to do this,'?" board member Joanne Hurley said.

Armstrong said that last year the school board recognized AMIKids was "in a bind" and the district was willing to step in and help.

"We wanted to make sure the students had the services they needed," she said.

Staff and students at Richey Elementary moved into a new school building in August 2012, and that's why the school's old administration building was vacant.

Although the school district wasn't using the building, that could be changing.

Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd said the district's prekindergarten department and transportation department both have expressed an interest in the facility.

"We really need that building back," Gadd said. "It's not surplus."

AMIKids Pasco has worked in conjunction with the school district since 1993 but had a separate facility in New Port Richey until it ran into funding problems last year after another company won its contract with he Department of Juvenile Justice.

AMIKids Pasco is one of more than 50 AMIKids programs in nine states. The group is headquartered in Tampa.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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