New suspension school starts in January

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By The Staff

Students in Lancaster County who are suspended or expelled will soon have a place to go where they can receive instruction and guidance during their time away from school.

The Rev. Wayne Murray and other community leaders are organizing a suspension school called In Pursuit of Excellence. It will be housed at Living Word Church on Market Street in Lancaster.

The school will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and target middle and high school students.

Community volunteers will work with students on reading, math and behavior. Social and life skills, such as conflict resolution and appropriate communication, will be taught. Students will also be able to play games such as billiards and Playstation II.

Murray, founder and pastor at Living Word Church, said the program gives students suspended or expelled from school an alternative to staying at home or hanging out in the streets.

A meeting was held Sunday to let those interested know where organizers are in the planning process.

"Our young people have to know that the community is behind them," Murray said. "They need our help. We want the kids that don't want to be in school."

In Pursuit of Excellence is not an arm of Lancaster County School District, although district personnel say they support the program and will let parents know about it.

"It will keep kids off the streets," said Dr. Patrice Robinson, the executive director of the district's department of at-risk student services. "They will also be able to make up missed assignments. Many parents will have peace of mind knowing their children are safe while they're working."

The program is not required for suspended or expelled students. Parents will have to register their children in order for them to attend.

Murray plans to have the school running when the next semester begins in January. There is no cap on how many students can attend and the program will operate even if there's just one student signed up, he said.

School district personnel as well as staff from the Lancaster Police Department and the Department of Juvenile Justice comprise some of the volunteers.

Rebecca Lyon, one of about 20 people who attended Sunday's meeting, said she looks forward to helping with the program a few days each week.

"This is a huge need in our community," she said. "It sounds like they got a lot of things that are going to be important issues - like self esteem."

Contact Jesef Williams

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