There’s only one small problem with the classes the Lamar County School District offers for students with behavioral issues: the classes are spread out across the district at multiple campuses.
So school district officials are bringing in a new building at Jefferson Todd Alternative School in Purvis that will feature six new classrooms designed to bring the classes and students together, and allow teachers run the program more efficiently. Three of the new classrooms will serve as general education rooms, with one class for special education and another for services offered by Pine Belt Mental Health.
“I think it’s going to be a huge help,” said Josette Sirmon, director of Special Services at the school district. “We’ve always had these classes, so that’s not new, but they were spread out and things weren’t necessarily being done consistently.
“So I think just the consistency of the program will help us be able to run things better. We’ve got staff back there that are trained in different behaviors, so we wanted them all together so those teachers can be a resource to the others.”
Pine Belt Mental Health officials, who have long offered day treatment at the Oak Grove Primary School campus, will spend about half the day at the building working with the students.
“They help those kids with social skills and expressing their feelings,” Sirmon said. “A lot of times, the reason they’re acting out is because they can’t tell us what they need or how they’re feeling. So the goal is to get their behaviors under control so that they can go back to the regular schools.”
Sirmon said the single location will allow the teachers to meet together and problem-solve for children with certain behavioral issues.
“A lot of times, those teachers were the only ones on the campus dealing with extreme behavior issues, so they didn’t really have anyone they could bounce ideas off of,” she said. “So I think this is going to be a huge help all around.”
Each class in the new building will be able to accommodate 10 students, although only approximately 20 students will come in at first.
“There is a process that has to be followed before the students can come – (teachers) can’t just call us and say they’re having trouble with a kid and just send them over,” Sirmon said. “We do try to do as many interventions in the school as possible, and if that’s not working, then we’ll look at placement.”