Monett Behavioral Center aims for August opening

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Cassville looks to benefit from training, may send students

The Cassville school district is hoping to benefit from the Monett school district’s addition of another regional offering for students in local districts — the Monett Behavioral Center.

Russ Moreland, Monett superintendent, said the idea took root while Brad Hanson was still superintendent, and he is only continuing to roll the ball.

“As soon as I got here, I met with Teena Fare, Monett special services director, and recognized we wanted to keep this movement going and get this alternative school formulated,” Moreland said. “We have the facilities and a great location.”

Fare said the Center would house two programs, one for students with behavioral issues, and another for students on the autism spectrum.

“We are working with Crowder in Neosho and have modeled this after a couple of larger programs, the Beacon Behavioral Center in Joplin and the Beacon Autism Center in Carthage,” Fare said. “Crowder is helping us with implementation and operations, and training people to work with the students.”

Moreland said as of now, the Monett Behavioral Center would have seven total member schools, including Monett, and serve a maximum of 20 students.

“It would not be limited to students with [individual education plans or specific special needs], but for students who need a different level of support districts cannot offer on-site,” Moreland said. “Travel is an issue [with sending students to the Beacon programs, so] we want to create something that will see that level of success here, closer to home.”

Fare said the four Monett students who attend Beacon facilities, three at the Autism Center and one at the Behavioral Center, would benefit from local services.

“The length of day is different, and when they travel over an hour each direction, it makes for a very long day,” she said. “In addition, if we have services in our own district, parents can be here more. they are welcome at Beacon, but it is difficult for them to make use of those opportunities. The instructional piece in the home district will also make students feel like they are more part of the district than if they receive instruction elsewhere.”

Fare said there is a structural aspect with a scripted program, but it is tailored to individual students’ needs.

“The goal is to get students back in classes at their home districts,” Fare said. “We are excited to provide a level of service to this part of southwest Missouri that has not been available.”

Another aspect of the Center is training for staff at member schools.

“We will partner with Crowder for training for staff in member districts for interventions or support when students return to their home districts,” Fare said.

The training for staff at each district is a prospect Cassville Superintendent Richard Asbill is excited about.

“I have high hopes for the training piece,” he said. “Having professional expertise in working with our students will be a tremendous asset for the district.”

Asbill said Cassville began working with Monett in November 2018, sending a representative to an informational meeting about the Center.

“We tossed around how it would benefit our [Cassville] students, even if none participated directly, and it’s great to be able to have such close collaboration without district borders.”

Asbill said Cassville would likely have some students recommended to attend the Center, especially with the locality. The district has also used alternative schools in Joplin and Springfield.

“There is an opportunity for us to send three or four students to Monett that would benefit from a more accessible program that can also supplement what we can do,” Asbill said. “We are very appreciative of Monett to look at this type of platform that allows districts to cooperate and participate collectively. Removing boundaries is important to be able to provide access for students to have success.”

Moreland said the Monett Behavioral Center facility will be at the west end of the Monett Elementary School campus and plans to open in August. Work is already underway to prepare the building.

“Maintenance crews are cleaning it out and doing small things like an HVAC replacement, carpet replacements and making sure all the utilities are working,” he said.

Moreland said Monett is working with school board of other local districts to get them on board, and he is expecting six others to join, leaving room to grow as needed.

“During the second semester, we are partnering with a Crowder specialist to work with the sending schools to determine placement,” Moreland said. “Once we do that, we will proceed with determining staff needs.”

Moreland said attending students would come to the Center every day during normal school hours, with transportation dependent on the individual school districts, similar to the Scott Tech setup.

Sending schools would be charged a fee, which Moreland said would be split evenly between the schools.

“We will create an operational budget of things like staffing and supplies, then we will divide that budget based on the sending schools’ enrollment, so it will be a shared cost.”

Moreland also said the Monett district will pay for all of the renovations, saying he would not ask other districts to contribute to improvements of Monett facilities.

“This is really exciting,” Moreland said. “It’s something we’ve been needing for a while, and it’s great for [Monett] to be the hub.”

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