ELMORE - Although Elmore Academy and the Wildcat Cafe will be shutting down, it's not as simple as closing the doors, according to T.J. Mauer, acting facility administrator.
The decision to close the residential youth facility owned by Youth Services International was made the first of the year, Mauer confirmed, but he declined to set a date when the academy will cease operation.
"At this time, we've decided to close the doors and are assessing the programmatic needs we can offer the state of Minnesota in the future," he said. "At some point, it could [come back]. We're going to take a step back and re-evaluate."
Mauer would not say whether any other YSI-owned facilities are being closed.
"Right now, that's all I'll speak of is Elmore Academy," he said.
Mauer said a closing date depends on the students.
"As of right now, we're in the process of making sure the kids continue to get services they need or transition back home," he said. "Once that process is done, I'll have a clearer picture of the end date. As we talk, I don't have a set date in mind. My focus in on my staff and on my clients. What I'm telling you is the honest-to-God truth."
Elmore Academy is a facility for at-risk teens ages 13-19. Teens are referred from all over the state. Their offenses can range from truancy to "those who've committed serious crimes," says Peter Odgren, an assistant county attorney for Martin County who specializes in juvenile cases.
The referring county maintains responsibility for the student. Mauer said between 12 and 20 students remain at the facility.
"[We'll] make a decision if they need further services in a facility or they can transition back into home life," he said.
Elmore Academy employs 40 to 45 people and Mauer says they have options.
"We will look into doing whatever we can," he said. "If employees want to transfer [to another facility], that is an option."
Another concern for the town is that Elmore Academy operates the Wildcat Cafe, the only restaurant in town.
"As of right now, the Wildcat Cafe will be closing with the Elmore Academy," Mauer confirmed. He added that he is attempting to keep the cafe operating.
The adult staff at the Wildcat Cafe are academy employees while six to eight students also work there. Students earn the privilege of working at the cafe through good behavior, and by demonstrating they can handle the responsibility.
As important as the Wildcat Cafe is to Elmore, Mauer said the community may miss other things the students do more. Some are assigned community service and fulfill that obligation by shoveling snow, picking up leaves, reading to younger students at Blue Earth Area Schools, and by cleaning up yards and parks in the spring.