Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo Closes Its Doors

By Christinia Crippes, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

The Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo is scheduled to close. (WATERLOO COURIER PHOTO)

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By Aaron Hepker

TOLEDO, Iowa - The Iowa Juvenile Home has closed its doors.

Though the Toledo facility was scheduled to be shuttered on Thursday, many IJH employees found out Wednesday that the home had closed a day early.

“They brought the highway patrol, and they told teachers you’ve got one hour to get out of here,” said Dave Nagle, who has been the spokesman for IJH supporters.

He said the teachers were led out “like common criminals,” Nagle said.

Todd Sprague, an IJH employee, had just shown up to work at about 10 a.m., when he learned that employees were being sent home.

Amy Lorentzen McCoy, public information officer for the Iowa Department of Human Services, acknowledged in a statement that this is a difficult time for the IJH employees but stressed that their bargaining agreements are being honored.

“The state has assisted them through the layoff process and continues to offer services and supports through the Employee Assistance Program and Iowa Workforce Development,” McCoy wrote. “The layoff is being implemented in accordance with relevant collective bargaining agreements.”

A layoff protocol in place, McCoy said, which includes collecting final timesheets, keys and state identification badges.

“Because the last youth left the facility Tuesday, requirements for on-site staff are minimal,” McCoy wrote. “Staff are being paid for their scheduled hours through the final layoff date/time, whether or not their ongoing presence on campus is required.”

Sprague was told he would be paid through Thursday by his supervisor. He said, however, employees were expecting an extra day together.

“They are paying us, but it’s a blow,” Sprague said of getting the news Wednesday. “It was a huge life-change for everybody.”

Gov. Terry Branstad announced on Dec. 9 that he would close the facility that had operated in Toledo since 1920 by Jan. 16.

His decision followed a task force submitting recommendations for improving the facility, and an investigation by The Des Moines Register outlining problems at the campus that helped troubled girls.

When Branstad announced the closure, 21 girls were on campus and 93 employees.

Though employees expected the doors to be shuttered, they are not finished fighting to keep the facility in operation.

They are scheduled to meet with lawmakers next week to discuss the closure. A lawsuit has also been filed in the Polk County District Court by four Democratic lawmakers and the state's public employees' union against the governor's actions.

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