Students with serious emotional challenges will now have a place to get the extra help needed at school.
The Payson Unified School District recently announced the Arizona Department of Education approved funding for a self-contained classroom for emotionally disabled (ED-P) students at the Payson Alternate Resource Center.
The district has already identified two students approved for ED-P and anticipates beginning the school year with four students in the program.
Within the year, program director Barbara Fitzgerald would like to see seven students enrolled.
That would generate about $112,000 in funding, which would cover the cost of a paraprofessional and school psychologist.
After 12 students, additional staff may be added.
“The state has very specific guidelines and program requirements and I am developing a program guideline document that will assure we meet those standards,” Fitzgerald said.
Requirements include counseling and mental health intervention. Fitzgerald anticipates working closely with Southwest Behavioral Health for crisis services.
Superintendent Casey O’Brien said the program is one of the few offered in the state.
“While this is not a large program, it will serve students who might otherwise be looking at a residential school setting,” he said.
The program works primarily with students unable to learn in a traditional setting.
Characteristics include an inability to build relationships with peers and teachers, inappropriate behavior, a general mood of unhappiness or depression and a fear of personal or school problems.
The alternative classroom will offer social skill instruction, counseling on top of academic work.