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County Board members tour juvenile detention center

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 9:01 p.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Standing in a classroom of empty desks with educational posters plastered to the walls, Kane County Board member Deborah Allan on Thursday asked the teacher how he deals with kids who don't want to be there.

"Are the kids willing to try?" asked Allan, D-Elgin.

Her question wasn't prompted by the teacher's subject – math – but by the type of students he works with: juveniles in custody for pending court proceedings.

Allan, along with other members of the Public Service Committee, was touring the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center in St. Charles Township. The center – which is on the same campus as the Kane County Judicial Center and the Kane County Sheriff's Office – is a detention facility for ages 10 to 17.

Ivars Spalis, the education program coordinator for the facility's school program, guided the committee through the center's seemingly identical corridors, which had doorways to a library, computer lab, gym and, among other rooms, living quarters.

About 60 juveniles were in custody Thursday, Spalis said, noting youth come from such counties as DuPage, DeKalb and Kendall in addition to Kane.

The average stay is 12 days, he said, but some might stay much longer. Days are broken into six 40-minute class periods, Spalis said, but the center is in the process of shifting the schedule to six 50-minute periods so that the youths get the same amount of class time as public school students.

There are four classroom teachers, whose students are grouped by security rather than by grade, Spalis said.

County Board members expressed appreciation for what the teachers do.

"To walk into a situation like this has got to be difficult," said Becky Gillam, R-West Dundee. "I think it's commendable."

The Juvenile Justice Center is seeking volunteers to help in the library and tutor students. Visit www.kaneroe.org for information.

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