FARMINGTON — An RSU 9 proposal to consolidate three elementary day-treatment programs to a Wilton school next school year was met Tuesday with mixed reactions from the board, parents and district staff.

Concerns raised during a school board meeting included too many transitions for the children, loss of education time and the possibility of children being stigmatized for spending more time on a school bus.

The district serves Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

One parent told the board she did not want her child to go into a consolidated program. Her child has made much progress in the program, she said.

“I want my kid to feel normal, like other kids,” the parent said. “It is important.”

Some people said consolidating the program would be better for the education and treatment of children and offer support that is lacking for the staff.

Most of the parents of the 15 students in the program who were reached were in favor of the consolidation, Paula Leavitt, director of special services, said. Two were not.

School board directors tabled the proposal and asked for more information before making a decision. Some directors were ready to vote on it.

The district runs day-treatment programs for kindergartners through sixth-graders at Mallett and Cascade Brook schools in Farmington and Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon.

The proposed consolidation would have students in the program bused to their home schools and then bused to the Academy Hill School in Wilton. A large home economics room would be modified for the program. An extra classroom and two smaller spaces also are available.

Either leaving the programs as they are or consolidating them requires more funding. To keep the program as is would cost $89,040 more plus additional money to be requested later, Superintendent Tom Ward said. Consolidation would cost $68,512 more in transportation costs.

The plan calls for students in the day-treatment program to be released from school an hour earlier each day to allow for supervision and debriefing and specialized staff training. The current schedule does not allow it, and it is required for reimbursement through MaineCare.

“It is a very stressful job,” Leavitt said.

One out of five children has a mental disorder, she said. One out of 10 has a serious emotional disturbance that affects daily function, she said.

“Four out of five children who need mental health services do not receive them,” Leavitt said. “The day-treatment program is designed to meet the mental health needs of children between the ages of 5 and 20 who are exhibiting problematic behaviors.”

A separate program is run for students in grades 7 through 12 at the high school.

Through the structured programs, a wide variety of services are offered, including individual and group therapy specific to the needs of the child, and academic instruction.

The day-treatment staff have the experience and expertise to work effectively with children who can exhibit behaviors of defiance and loss of temper, inattention, hyperactivity, violation of rules and the basic rights of others, and difficulties dealing with the effect of sexual abuse, according to Leavitt.

The change would give students access to a therapist five days a week and allow highly-trained staff from the three separate programs to be available to support students, Leavitt said. It takes six to eight weeks of treatment to help a child be integrated into a regular classroom setting, if it is possible, she said.

“Our goal is that all of these students return to their home programs,” Ward said.

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