Program changes at YEMS

Moving the Warren County School District’s autistic and emotional support programs to Youngsville Elementary Middle School admittedly didn’t go well last year.

But during Monday evening’s meeting of the school board of directors’ Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee, district administration laid out a path to alleviate the concerns and make the programs successful.

“(We) had trouble with the amount of staffing, adverse community reaction, regular ed(ucation) staff not as well prepared as they could have been for the program,” said Interim Director of Pupil Services Ruth Nelson, “so we made some adjustments.”

“We have added (a) special education supervisor,” Nelson said. “There will be a full-time one at YEMS next year.”

School counselor time at YEMS was also increased.

Nelson explained that she met with the faculty at the school in December and February and that a committee has “grown from parent meetings” that continues to meet bi-monthly.

Additional training is also in the works.

As part of the implementation of School-Wide Positive Behavior Support, a state initiative, Nelson said the district is “designating one full day” of in-service immediately prior to the start of the school year.

Mental health first aid training will continue to be a point of emphasis and Nelson explained that the district will be reaching out to bus drivers to develop “better communication with them.” She said that the special education supervisors will meet with the bus drivers before school starts.

An additional “transitional classroom,” designed to meet the mental health and behavior needs of the most intensive students is also set to be implemented in the fall. Nelson said a teacher has been assigned and two mental health aides have also been brought for board approval to be specifically utilized in that classroom.

Other rooms have been moved.

“(The) flow wasn’t what we wanted,” Nelson said. “PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education) has looked at the building with us and we are doing a relocation of a few of the classrooms.”

Two of those to move are the refocus room and the calming room.

Nelson said the administration “was not thrilled with the location last year (and is) moving them for this year. (The) distance was too far. (It) didn’t work the way we wanted it to work.”

Citing the goals of the program, detailed on a document posted on esb.wcsdpa.org, Board Vice President Donna Zariczny asked if the district has accomplished some of these goals. “Are there some we need to work for?” she asked.

“(We) didn’t maximize what we could have from the Barber Center,” Nelson said. “We’re correcting that for next year. I think the rest of the areas we have really hit. (A) school psychologist has helped. (We) did realize we needed to add more special education supervisor time. I think that will be a big support to our principals.”

“(I) think we were on the right track last year,” said Nelson, noting “things we need to tweak or improve upon.”

She said feedback from parents of students in the program was “mostly positive.”

Board President Arthur Stewart credited administration for being “honest about those things without trying to white-wash them.”