SL schools join consortium to handle behavior-issue students

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Storm Lake School District will enter the North Central School Consortium for the first time, eager for a place to send students with behavioral extra needs.

The district will pay $78,000 up front to join the consortium for next school year. Actual cost is based on the size of the district and how many of its students are sent to the facility. Any unused funds are returned to the home district.

The site once housing Fort Dodge Boys Ranch was formed as a school for extra-needs students with 10 original member districts. Changing state policy required such facilities to be associated with a school district, and the consortium school was taken over by Manson-Northwest Webster district. There are now 24 member districts.

“We’re at the point we need to be able to offer something during the day,” Storm Lake Superintendent Stacey Cole told the school board in a special meeting this week. “Research shows that out-of-school suspensions don’t work - they just put the student back into the environment that caused the problem in the first place.”

Most behavioral programs age students out by 7th or 8th grade, but the consortium school offers programming for elementary through high school ages. Cole said she was speaking with other superintendents about the local district’s behavioral issues during the past year, saying “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” when they suggested the consortium.

The Storm Lake district will have to transport any students in the programs to the Manson area and back daily. Cole said placement of students there man be for only a short time until behavior problems are cleared up.

“It will help us. Sometimes kids just need to be away from their peers for a while. Take away that audience and it helps.”

The consortium’s mission statement says it is designed to “serve students disconnected from traditional education, coping with the effects of trauma or challenging behavior, social and emotional needs.”

“We strive to provide a safe, positive and caring environment through an inclusive, student-centered program of academic, counseling and social skills training,” it reads. “We establish clear behavior expectations, develop coping skills and self-regulation, build self-esteem, teach students respect, empathy and how to build positive relationships. The primary goal is to support the student to successfully transition back to their resident district.”

A team of leaders from the various Storm Lake Schools will be touring the consortium school in the next few weeks.