JCS to Build Regional Student Support Center

JCS to Build Regional Student Support Center
Posted on 04/09/2019
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Over the past decade, Jefferson County Schools has experienced a significant increase in both the number of students and the level of need of students served.   In particular, the intensive needs of students requiring special education services.  One of the consequences of this influx is the necessity to pay for highly specialized services and placements for children whose medical or behavioral needs are beyond our current staff’s capacity.  In addition, we have seen a significant increase in the number of children who are victims of either Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (in utero exposure to opioids) or the victims of abuse and neglect from an addicted or incarcerated parent.   
We are committed to meeting the needs of these students for a healthy, vibrant future for Jefferson County.  Currently, Jefferson County Schools meets those needs by educating more than 40 special education students outside of the State of West Virginia.   This solution is a less than ideal situation for our students and is not sustainable.:
1. Given the location of these specialized facilities, our most challenged students spend between 3-4 hours per day on a bus.  The result is a great deal of lost educational and family time and an increase in stress for the children and parents involved.
2. The location of the schools out of state means that our children do not have access to any friends/neighbors/typically developing peers.  Children need to build relationships with typically developing peers, especially those who live in their neighborhoods. This allows children (and their parents) to be part of a social network where they make connections crucial to a child’s growth into adulthood. 
3. All special education programs feature a Community Based Instruction (CBI) component.   Students are taken into the community to learn how to navigate/function in various public places such as libraries, grocery stores, banks, etc.    It is far more advantageous to these students if they were able to learn their local resources and be supported in their own community as opposed to a geographically distant area where they will never reside. 
4. The out of state schools do not provide any ancillary benefit to the Jefferson Community because they do not employ Jefferson County Schools staff. The tuition Jefferson County Schools pays on behalf of these students is used towards training to improve someone else’s staff, purchase of equipment we will not own and tax payments to the county and state in which they are located.  The better solution is to keep these dollars in Jefferson County.   
5. The out of state schools are not subject to or governed by the Jefferson County Schools rules, regulations, and protocols reducing Jefferson County Schools efforts to provide a transparent and open educational system for parents and the community. 
6. The total cost of sending students out of state exceeds $2 million annually.   These costs are primarily in tuition and transportation.    
In addition to the students receiving special education services, there are a number of general education students suffering from trauma. Jefferson County Schools meets these students’ need through employment of Clinical Social Workers, mental health therapists, school counselors, mentors and a host of other support mechanisms to assist these students in being successful.   However, these critical resources are limited.  As a result, they are scattered across 17 schools.  The situation is less productive and insufficient to meet all of the social – emotional needs that we are seeing in our students. 
These issues are not confined to Jefferson County.  Every school system in West Virginia is experiencing a significant increase in need without additional sources of revenue for training, staff and equipment.  This problem is made worse when we send funds outside of our school systems to meet the needs of our children rather than increasing our own capacity to meet their needs.    

Forward Thinking Solutions
Jefferson County Schools is committed to developing a regional student support center to meet these needs in a way that creates a more positive and productive experience for our students, families and staff.  We have a responsibility to be champions for our children, pioneers in innovation and models for best practice in education in the State of West Virginia.
Thus, we are committed to building a regional student support center.  This center would provide the highly specialized behavioral and medical services required to meet student needs here in Jefferson County.  The training to meet these needs would be delivered to Jefferson County Schools staff.  The jobs generated by this program would go to Jefferson County citizens and the revenue would stay in Jefferson County.   
Jefferson County Schools has been working collaboratively with the West Virginia Department of Education and private providers to develop a multi-year plan for this transition.  In addition, we have collaborated with our partners in Berkeley County Schools as they struggle with many of the same issues.  They have expressed interest in learning more about our program and how it could prove a cost effective and positive way to meet student needs regionally.  The Jefferson County Board of Education has committed to obtaining a location sufficiently large and conveniently located to support the needed infrastructure for such a center to be successful.  
The commitment and vision of the Jefferson County Board of Education represents a vibrant, supportive community working to maintain a culture of caring while growing to meet the changing needs of children.   We are proud of our history of excellence, honored by the trust of our community to maintain it and committed to building a legacy for the next generation.   

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