COCHISE COUNTY — Cochise County Superintendent Jacqui Clay welcomed a new accommodation school, the New Crossroads Academy, into the county with an open house for the education center on Friday, June 25.

“We named it ‘New Crossroads’ because the thing is, when you get to a point, whether that’s a jail detention center or you dropped-out or whatever that situation is, when you meet us at the school, you have a choice: you could continue going the way you are, or you have the opportunity to change,” said Clay.

Clay continued, “A lot of people drop off the map because they don’t feel significant anymore ... Anybody will drop off the map because they don’t have a purpose. Once you have a purpose, it equals passion ... Education is supposed to be the one that helps you find what that is, then you go with it.”

Clay said that the accommodation school is needed to provide “a clear pathway” for students ages 16-22 who have been out of school for 30 days or more to earn a high school diploma through Grad Solutions. Clay said the school is accredited.

“There is no pathway for our high-risk students, our students in the detention center, our students coming out of jail, our students who may have had to drop-out of school due to pregnancy or that they had to take care of their parents,” said Clay. “You don’t know what the reason is. But where is the clear pathway that they feel is inclusive? ... That was a gap that just needed to be filled.”

Clay said that New Crossroads Academy will help school’s A-F scores, which decrease when students are classified as a W5 or withdrawal.

Clay said that if a school sends over their students who are classified as W5’s to enroll in New Crossroads Academy, the students’ status is amended to a W1 or transfer student, thus improving the school’s A-F score.

Clay also highlighted that the school is a way to decrease the percentage of “opportunity youth,” which is categorized by Expect More Arizona as youth aged 16-24 who aren’t enrolled in school or employed. Currently, Clay said that the rate of opportunity youth in Cochise County has risen to 17%: the goal is to decrease this rate to under 7%.

“We believe that this accommodation school will find all those opportunity youth, and get them back in school,” said Clay during her presentation Friday evening.

“The percentage of opportunity youth in Cochise County is on the rise,” said Cochise College Assistant Dean of Workforce Development Karl Griffor in an email, “While the college has our own Adult Education/GED completion program, having multiple avenues for prospective students makes good sense and offers the highest chance for their success. The current percentage of opportunity youth is untenable for Cochise County; we must come up with more innovative ways to ensure that we decrease this number.”

The school is targeted to open for the fall in a year-round enrollment cycle. Clay said that prospective students will be contacted in August for student orientation.

Clay said those who are interested in enrolling in the school can add their name to the waitlist by filling out the online survey.

Clay said that the name for the school was chosen by students.

“When we got the idea of doing the dropout accommodation school, we decided to have our students pick the name,” said Clay. “As the superintendent, I go and see our jail students once a month. So the assignment I gave them was ‘gentleman, you gotta give me 10 names and tell me why.’ ... New Crossroads was chosen by and created by our students at the county jail.”

For additional assistance in their studies, Clay said that students will be able to visit New Crossroads Academy’s education center off 4001 E. Foothills Drive in Sierra Vista by appointment on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Clay said the education center will provide computers, supplementary curricula and teachers to assist students with their assignments. Clay also said the education center will serve as a certified GED testing center.

In addition to the education center, the New Crossroads Academy will also incorporate the property adjacent to the building, which is allocated for a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics or STEAM garden.

In collaboration with Cochise College, the University of Arizona South Cooperative Extension, Cochise County Education Services Agency and Lowe’s Sierra Vista branch, New Crossroads Academy’s STEAM garden will incorporate multiple garden beds, murals painted by the students, a koi pond, outdoor shade coverings and Wi-Fi access.

“Green, yellow, red, all those gorgeous colors. Just imagine the place flooded with lots of colors,” said Charlotte Taylor, senior program coordinator of the Building Healthy Communities program at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

“When it comes to making sure those in the correctional facility, who took the road maybe less traveled, that doesn’t mean that the road comes to an end,” said Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels in his closing presentation on Friday evening. “We need to make sure that we branch off that road and get them places like we’re doing here today.”

Clay said the current staff for the education center will serve as supplementary support to the teachers and mentors at Grad Solutions.

“As we grow, we’ll be able to add staff members,” said Clay. “I’m a certified teacher, Ben (Reyna, Outreach Coordinator) is a certified teacher, Ibrahim (Aslam, AmeriCorps VISTA — Outreach Program), he is getting his teacher certification. We have Alicia Buckhanan (juvenile detention teacher) who is a certified teacher, and then we have Cindy Morales (superintendent administrative assistant) who is a certified sub. Over 50% of my staff, we can fill in when needed when a student needs help.”

When it comes to the school mascot, Clay said it will be a phoenix rising out amongst the flames.

“New Crossroads meaning make your decision, we hope you make the right decision, and you have everything you need,” said Clay. “You have to make that decision. If you make the right decision, you will be like a phoenix coming out from the flames ... That puts the most joy in my heart: to see people take it and run with it.”