Clay County Youth Educational Services program in jeopardy

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 9:21 AM CST
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MOORHEAD, Minn. (Valley News Live) - An alternative learning program in Clay County could soon be ending.

“I don’t want to see the YES Program shut down. It is a primary function. It is a unique educational program that is helping so many,” said parent April Gilbertson.

Several parents reached out to the Valley News Live Whistleblower Hotline to share their concerns about how the potential closure of the Youth Educational Services (YES) program will create an educational gap for students who cannot academically perform in a traditional school setting.

The YES Program was started in partnership with the Lakes Country Service Cooperative and Clay County schools including Moorhead, Hawley, DGF, Barnesville, and Ulen-Hitterdal, as they were looking to create an option for alternative learning.

Now the program’s fate hangs in the balance parents have started a petition to fight for it.

“It’s a sad day for us,” said Jeremy Kovash, Executive Director of Lakes Country Service Cooperative. “We’re certainly sorry, but things change in education over time. “Financially we are not able to sustain the program.”

Parents of students in the program say this will leave a huge void for some kids.

“These kids are brilliant they just need a different way of learning.”

Testimonials were read during Tuesday’s Clay County Commission meeting. Clay County Commissioner Kevin Campbell, who also serves on LSCS’s board, says this potential closure has been a long time coming.

“I’ve reported on my committee reports for the last couple of years, maybe three years, about the discussions of the YES Program and its funding shortfalls and the concerns that the board had with that piece of it.”

The YES Program traditionally serves 30 to 50 students each year. Kovash says the program has not only struggled to find teachers with licenses, but enrollment has also taken a hit.

“We’ve certainty seen a decline in enrollment since the 1980′s when we started, a pretty steady decline in enrollment over time,” Kovash said.

April Gilbertson says the YES Program is giving her daughter a renewed interest in education.

“She had completely stopped caring about school. This program gave her back that care,” Gilbertson said.

Kovash says the program does not receive public funding like many school districts. Gilbertson believes more needs to be done to find the funding to keep the program going, including Minnesota’s budget surplus.

“Governor Walz is talking about these Walz checks. Honestly, I don’t want a check. I want it to go to this program,” Gilbertson said.

The YES Board of Directors is meeting at noon on Thursday, March 9. If the board votes to shut down the program, parents say they are working on a contingency plan to help keep the program going themselves.