RUMFORD — Providing support to the Pennacook Learning Center’s 30 students is tops on the goals of its director, Rick Greene, and the staff who work with the emotionally challenged youngsters.
“We have some fairly significant disorders,” he told the RSU 10 board Monday night. His staff frequently works one-on-one with the students.
“We have the proper staffing, with both the right temperament and training,” he said.
The Pennacook Learning Center was established about eight years ago and is in the former Virginia Elementary School in Rumford.
Greene said the program was established to provide a safe, caring environment where students are supported emotionally, behaviorally and academically. Some students eventually can return to the mainstream classroom. One recently transitioned back and three are preparing for the move, he said.
Along with providing a structured program close to students’ homes, the program also aims to save the district money. Often times, sending a student to another facility can cost $100,000 a year or more.
In addition to the staff, the program has on-site clinical support, Greene said.
In response to a question by board Chairman Jerry Wiley, Greene said school directors are invited to visit the school.
Greene said the day treatment program has good relationships with the community and the Rumford Police Department, which is sometimes called when needed.
Currently, the student population consists of 13 elementary-age pupils, six middle school students and 11 high school students.
In other matters at Monday’s board meeting, special education director Clarissa Errington updated the board on a change to the methods used to meet the needs of RSU 10’s 540 special needs children.
At the beginning of this school year, RSU 10 dropped from two co-directors of the special education program to one. In place of the second director, most of the district’s 10 schools has a building-based coordinator for special education. These building coordinators are full-time special education teachers in their buildings and receive a stipend for the additional duties required of them.
Among their duties are leading individual educational programs for the special needs children in their schools.
Errington said the district currently employs 36 special education teachers, including those at Pennacook, and 82 educational technicians to serve the special needs children.
Superintendent Tom Ward said this new model for administering special education is being studied by other school districts around the state.