Sobriety High to Close Due to Funding Issues

Posted at: 05/08/2013 6:48 PM
Updated at: 05/08/2013 7:05 PM
By: Naomi Pescovitz

Dozens of Minnesota teenagers dealing with addiction will need to find a new high school.

Both the Burnsville and Coon Rapids campuses of Sobriety High are closing at the end of the school year because of funding problems.

Adrienne Weierke, 17, has found more than an education at Sobriety High.

"It's like my family here. It's been my foundation for a long time," Weierke said.

Now a junior, Weierke came to the school before she turned 15-years-old after finishing treatment for chemical dependency and self harm issues. Now a working, happy teen, she's turned a corner.

"I'm proud of a lot of stuff that I wouldn't be able to be proud of without being where I am," Weierke said.

Open in some form since 1989, there have been recent financial problems. Executive Director Paul McGlynn has had the tough job of answering to parents.

"They say please, please, do not close. If you close, we are going to lose our child again and we cannot lose our child again. And I have to look them in the eye, we don't have a choice. I have to close. We just don't have the money," McGlynn said.

The problem is two-fold. A private donor who contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the school for each the last 15 years has pulled out.

Also, the Department of Education bases funding on a head count of students in October. At an addiction program like Sobriety High where students are often in transition, that number can change drastically.

"This year, we've had 145 students come through the doors of our two schools. But in funding ways, we're getting paid for 67 of those students," McGlynn said.

When the school closes, students and staff vow to maintain their friendship and sobriety.

"I want all of us to graduate," Weierke said.

"This may be a very positive thing, for these kids to take what they've learned out to the world," said Debbie Bolton, Assistant Executive Director.

"I'm sober 13 years, I hope they have the gift, of long sober lives," McGlynn said.

Students and their families met at the school Wednesday evening to learn about plans for next year. Some will return to high schools in their districts. Others will attend other recovery high schools.

City West Academy, a recovery school within a school in Eden Prairie, will also close after this year because of funding.

Click here to read more about the status of recovery schools in Minnesota