Keystone program for those with severe needs may move

by Dennis Sharkey

In order to better utilize mental health services for children with severe needs a program may need to move.

Keystone Learning Services houses most of its programs at the service center in Ozawkie. However, some smaller programs, known as cluster programs, are run by some of the consortium individual schools.

The program for the severely emotionally disturbed has been housed at Jefferson County North Elementary school for more than 10 years.

Keystone Director Dr. Tim Marshall said the program has been growing the last five years and space is becoming an issue. But the main reason for a change would be to bring the kids closer to the Guidance Center for a new program aimed at the kids.

The Guidance Center just completed its second year of providing a mental health program at the John Dewey Learning Academy. Marshall said some of the programs at JDLA can have some of their resources allocated to the new program.

The target school for a move would be Oskaloosa. Last month the Oskaloosa school board discussed the issue but took no action. Earlier this month the Keystone Board discussed the issue for the first time.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near a decision yet,” Marshall said.

Keystone Board member Jon Henry represents Oskaloosa USD 341 on the board and said his district is not opposed to the plan but has some concerns.

“It’s a pretty big decision on our part,” Henry said. “It’s a pretty intense program. Overall we’re not opposed to having it. It’s just ‘Can we handle it?’

“We’ve got one principal like everyone else does now,” Henry added.

Jefferson County North USD 339 Superintendent Denise Jennings has been overseeing the program for more than 10 years. She said at times the program can be labor intensive but most of the time things run smoothly.

Jennings sees the need for the program to move but told the board that she has become emotionally attached to many of the children and the program and a big part of her would be sad to see it leave.

“I’m pretty tied to the program,” Jennings said. “We’ve seen good things happen with children.”

Marshall said USD 341 Superintendent Jon Pfau has some concerns about if the district could handle the program on a long-term basis. He said Pfau wanted to explore having the program on a rotating basis among schools. However, Marshall said he would like to avoid moving the program around.

“When you’re dealing with kids that need consistency you don’t want to make it worse,” Marshall said.

At the same time Marshall also said he doesn’t want to saddle any one district with too big of a burden.

“We don’t want to force that program, staff and kids on anybody,” Marshall said. “We don’t want to wear out our welcome in any district.”

Jennings said the program at times has been benficial to the rest of her schools. Sometimes a situation arises with a student who does not qualify for the program but could use some of the attention of the experts on staff.

Marshall said other schools besides Oskaloosa could be looked at for a host. However, the idea behind hosting the program is to keep the Guidance Center costs as low as possible.

“(Guidance Center offcials) are not holding Oskaloosa hostage and saying the program has to be there,” Marshall said.

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Posted by on Jun 5 2012. Filed under County News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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