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City of Sunnyside pledges $23,500 to educate at-risk youth

The Sunnyside Law and Justice Center campus will house a school building for at-risk students who have been in trouble with gang-related issues.

Last night, Monday, the Sunnyside City Council pledged to contribute $23,500 towards the effort in a partnership with the Sunnyside School District.

As part of the deal, Sunnyside will provide the land and a concrete pad and access pathway. The city will also cover the cost of running sewer and water lines to the site, as well as electrical, telephone and internet utilities.

At $12,000, the concrete slab represents by far the most expensive part of Sunnyside's commitment. Interim City Manager Mark Kunkler told council that the amount could lessen if a "stick-built" building is constructed instead of a modular structure, as first planned.

The overall project has a budget of $150,000 and will open this September to offer the Choices learning program to at-risk students and those who have been expelled from classes.

The $150,000 comes from state funds provided by local state legislators after a trip to Olympia by organizers of the school/city partnership.

Councilman Bill Gant was one of those who traveled to Olympia, and he said officials there were pleasantly surprised to see a school/city partnership in action.

In comments prepared for the council, Kunkler said, "Every agency and person we spoke to in Olympia, including the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Governor's office, were impressed by two things: (a) the cooperative effort between the city and school district, and (b) the Choices program, which is focused on prevention and intervention for kids involved with street gangs."

The Sunnyside School District's role in the Choices program will be to purchase the building and be reimbursed through the funds received from the legislature. In addition, the district will cover the costs of the Choices program and utilities.

Yet to be settled are issues pertaining to maintenance and operation of the school house.

Sunnyside's portion of the up-front costs will be paid out of the water, sewer and general fund. Kunkler said he will bring to council a budget amendment at a later date to account for the extra expenditures.

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