‘Transition classrooms’ the next step for CCS’ service for disruptive students

Posted 8/23/19

Chatham County Schools is trying a different option for students who, for whatever reason, don’t respond to normal efforts for behavioral adjustment and social-emotional development.

Transition …

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‘Transition classrooms’ the next step for CCS’ service for disruptive students

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Chatham County Schools is trying a different option for students who, for whatever reason, don’t respond to normal efforts for behavioral adjustment and social-emotional development.

Transition classrooms, new for the 2019-2020 school year, are designed to give students more specified counseling and academic instruction in a separate environment from the normal classroom. The district is planning for three such classrooms — one each for elementary, middle and high school students — for this year with low class sizes, behavior specialists assigned to each group and regular involvement of the student’s base school, or where they are assigned by attendance zone.

While presenting the program along with other district administrators last week, district Superintendent Derrick Jordan told the Chatham County Board of Education that this is an additional part of the “battery of resources” available to students that are disruptive.

“We’re hearing that Chatham is ahead of some of our partners across the state,” he said. “We’re finding that some of these extreme behaviors absolutely can become such that they are disruptive in nature. It falls to us to figure out how to serve some of those students. This is an additional step we believe in trying to ensure that we are providing student-specific support for the students with the greatest needs, and in this case, behavior support.”

Students would be referred to these classrooms by administrators at the child’s base school after exhausting other options for behavioral mediation. Amanda Hartness, the district’s assistant superintendent for academic services and instructional support, said candidates could include students in the Exceptional Children’s program as well as other students whose behavior problems may stem from childhood trauma or mental illness. The classrooms wouldn’t be for just any student — administrators said it would be for students who are “just not being successful no matter what we do,” said Tracy Fowler, director of student support services.

The K-5 Transition Classroom — or possibly multiple, depending on student needs — would be assigned a teacher and teacher’s assistant and include no more than eight students. The grade 6-8 and 9-12 classrooms would be located at SAGE Academy in Siler City and have an online facilitator to help students complete online courses. The middle school classes would be no more than six students and be designed for long-term suspensions as well, while the high school class would be capped at five students.

An important part of the initiative, administrators said, was the inclusion of behavior specialists who would serve as counselors. Melvin Diggs, the district’s EC director, said the day would be split among academic work “as their needs allow,” but also have a focus on mental health counseling as well as “skills work” on social-emotional attributes. Over the period of the time the student is in the class — an average of 8-10 weeks, Hartness said — the student would gradually be introduced back into their regular school environment if progress is shown.

The student’s base school would be involved throughout the process and attend all transition meetings.

The full cost of the program would vary on the number of students being served and their needs, but at the very least, $125,000 would be required to fund the teacher and classroom assistant for the K-5 class, for which the location has not yet been determined.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com.

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