Ten districts are starting the new school year with grants from the Department of Education to establish therapeutic classrooms
The Ed Department’s consultant for social-emotional-behavioral health, Barb Anderson, says these classrooms help students whose social, emotional or behavioral needs, interfere with their ability to be successful. “It’s a more intensive, supportive environment in which the students will learn new skills, and new coping strategies, to be able to have them return hopefully to their current educational environment,” Anderson says.
Anderson says the grant program was signed into law in 2020 as part of a statewide effort to increase mental health supports for children, youth, and families. She says the law has specific requirements for therapeutic classrooms. “And these include things like making ensuring that there are appropriately credentialed teachers for academic learning. Clear plans and clear criteria for students to be identified and referred to a therapeutic program involving families and the students,” she says.
Anderson says there also have to be clear plans for transitioning the student back into whatever less restrictive environments would be appropriate for that particular student. The ten districts to get grants this year are: Ballard, Bettendorf, Charles City, Coon Rapids-Bayard, Council Bluffs, Decorah, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Monticello, Williamsburg, and Woodbine.
The grants are spread out based on district size, and those who applied for grants last year and didn’t get them had first priority this year. Anderson says they’ve learned from the first year. “All of the districts that had the therapeutic classroom grants last year provided us with the end of the year reports in terms of how many students they served, and lessons learned. Their challenges also, because we also learned from what barriers and we might face in terms of implementation,” Anderson says.
She says some of the districts will be presenting what they learned as part of the Iowa best conference in October. Anderson says many districts had these types of classrooms before the grants and it is a way to be supportive. “The hope is just that wherever a student is in their journey, that they have the supports to be successful. And so schools that are implementing the therapeutic classroom grants, their goal is if a student needs more intensive support, whether those are social, emotional or behavioral, that they have that continuum of supports there,” she says.
Anderson says grant funds are an important resource to support schools in maintaining what they know is best practice in making a difference for students.