116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS -- An off-site program -- Harrison Connections -- for K-5 students with significant social, emotional and behavioral challenges is being moved to Polk Alternative Education Center this fall, which currently serves students in sixth to 12th grade.
Off-sites are programs for students outside of the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s main K-12 school settings. It is for students who may be considered a safety threat and engage in behaviors that are dangerous, said Wendy Parker, executive director of special services for the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
“This is a last resort setting for students,” Parker said during a Cedar Rapids school board meeting Monday. “One we don’t look at students going to and staying forever.”
The goal is for students to go to the specialized off-site school settings to get the help they need, and then return to their home school, Parker said.
Currently, only nine students in kindergarten through fifth grade are enrolled at Harrison Connections, which meets at Harrison Elementary School, 1310 11th St. NW, Cedar Rapids.
There are 75 students in grades 6-12 at Polk Alternative Education Center, 1500 B Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, which meets the educational needs of students with significant social, emotional and behavioral challenges.
The highest number of students at off-site programs was during the 2015-16 school year, when 305 students were enrolled at four off-site schools.
The move will help alleviate staffing concerns at Harrison Connections, Parker said.
“It’s hard to have enough staff to respond to a crisis at Harrison Connections,” Parker said.
Once students are moved to Polk, they will have access to “full services,” including a mental health therapist, a therapy dog and an administrator on site. Staff with the Harrison Connections program will move to Polk Alternative.
There has been “lots of conversation” around how to keep elementary students completely separate from the middle and high school students once they move to Polk, Parker said.
“There’s a lot of work being done so there is no co-mingling of those students at all,” Parker said. “Students we do have coming in to the elementary program (at Polk) are upper elementary students, so we’re hoping that will continue to be the need.”
Parker said the district is achieving its goal of reducing the number of students being moved to more restrictive settings by engaging in more proactive measures, including:
- Adding to all elementary buildings behavior technicians who implement, collect data and monitor the behavior support plans and provide support to reduce behaviors that interfere with the learning process.
- Increased use of Board Certified Behavior Analysts, who are responsible for assessing and evaluating students with behavior, psychological, developmental or social disabilities and then developing a treatment plan that involves using applied behavior analysis, reinforcement and task analysis.
- Successful transitions for students from off-sites back to their home buildings.
- Increasing effectiveness of schools’ special education programs by providing professional learning opportunities for staff on how to work with students with behavior challenges.
Since Polk Alternative added a mental health therapist to the program three years ago, more students are returning to their home schools, said Michelle Lukavsky, principal of off-site programs.
"The whole program is more restorative-based than it has been in the past,“ Lukavsky said.
Comments: (319) 398-8411; email@example.com