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Burlington, NC: Mental health services coming to elementary schools

June 22, 2019, Burlington (NC) Times-News: ABSS retools elementary school mental health services Changes are coming for Alamance-Burlington schools’ most vulnerable students. At the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 18, Chief Special Education Officer Keisha Banks presented a new structure for elementary school kids dealing with severe mental health issues. As it is now, these students are enrolled in Turning Point, based at Ray Street Academy in Graham. Since Ray Street doesn’t serve elementary-age children, these students don’t have the opportunity to mingle with their neurotypical classmates the way that middle and high schoolers in the program can, and that puts them at a disadvantage. As a result, they aren’t transitioning back to their home schools. Instead, many remain in the program throughout middle school and high school. They also lack access to electives like art and music, which could equip them with positive coping skills. It took a 2016–17 state audit for ABSS to realize these issues, and while corrections have been made since, this is the first time the district is proposing a major change. The proposed solution is this: Elementary school students will be moved out of Turning Point and placed in one of three elementary schools: E.M. Holt, Garrett or Hillcrest. In 2018–2019, 25 elementary school students were in need of these services. If that number increases, the school system will consider additional sites. Each school will have a “district-level Exceptional Children therapeutic classroom” equipped with the necessary staff and resources to care for these children. But they will have the added benefit of being able to interact with their neurotypical peers once they’ve shown they’re ready. This also benefits the other students. “We’ve talked with all three principals,” Banks said. “They are all excited about the classrooms coming to their buildings, and they’re excited about the possibilities that that will bring for their schools because the mental health therapist will be able to provide support for the [whole] school as well as training for teachers and staff on therapeutic strategies, not just for those therapeutic classrooms, but schoolwide, as well as restorative justice practices and trauma-informed therapy.” … Superintendent Bruce Benson stepped in to say he’d seen this model work elsewhere without issue. …
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