Because the Venango County jail is located within the Franklin Area School District, it is responsible for educating school-aged children incarcerated at the jail.

Zachary Proper, 13, of Oil City, has been lodged at the jail since Monday, when he was charged as an adult for the murders of his grandparents, George and Dorothy Fross, Oct. 7 at their Sandycreek Township home.

Preparations for Proper's education while he is at the jail are under way.

The district's teacher at the jail, Victoria Orr, has been getting materials from the Franklin Middle School for Proper, who was a seventh-grade student at Oil City Middle School, Franklin school district Superintendent Pamela Dye said Friday.

Proper's education program should begin today, according to special education director Denise Phipps, who oversees the program at the jail.

"We've requested his records. We got his records and reviewed them, and it (his schooling) will start (today)," she said.

"We don't know how long he will be there (at the jail), but we will educate him while he is there," Dye said.

Orr is certified in both secondary education and special education and teaches all subjects to her students at the jail, Phipps said.

The program is generally "very individualized, and is usually one-on-one," though occasionally, Orr might teach two students at the same time, Phipps said.

There is a classroom at the jail, outfitted with a two-way mirror, Dye said.

"The classroom is monitored the entire time," Phipps said.

Like the district's other teachers, Orr teaches five days a week, but she spends her school days at the jail.

"She follows our calendar," Dye said. "There is a need for her all the time."

Phipps said there is a good working relationship between the school district and jail staff, who encourage those in the jail to take advantage of the educational opportunities.

"This is a pretty positive program. It's a good thing," Phipps said.

School districts housing a correctional facility are required by law to provide basic instruction to students up to 17 years of age residing in the institution. The educational programs must also be offered to those ages 17 to 21 who have not received a high school diploma and wish to continue their education.

The law differentiates between those charged with a criminal offense and those convicted of a criminal offense.

Those under 21 years of age confined to an adult facility following a charge for a criminal offense shall be eligible for educational services to the same extent and in the same manner as a student who has been placed in alternative education program for disruptive students.

Such programs may operate outside the normal school day and may apply for a waiver of requirements pertaining to number of days or hours of instruction.

But while there may be some flexibility as to days and hours required, the program must permit the student to make normal academic progress and achieve requirements for graduation.

The state expects alternative education programs in county jails and prisons to operate five days a week and to offer instruction in at least four of the following subjects: language arts, math, science, social studies, health or life skills.

Those incarcerated individuals under the age of 21 who are convicted of a criminal offense are eligible for the same educational services as a student who has been expelled. Expelled students who are younger than 17 are subject to the state's compulsory attendance law, and districts must make some provision for their education.

Franklin Area School District served 10 students at the Venango County jail last year, according to the district.

The district assumes the cost of the program if the student is a district resident.

If the student is a resident of another school district, the Franklin district is reimbursed by the state.

"It is subtracted from their (the resident district's state) subsidy and given to us," Franklin school district business manager Laura Urban said. "If they (the students) are wards of the state, the state pays for it."

The rate charged is not based on the district's full tuition rate but on the actual cost of the program, Urban said.

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