D-19 expands therapist services for students

In an effort to better help their students, the Barnwell District 19 School Board approved a contract for regular therapist services with Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center.
Superintendent Dr. Teresa Pope told the board the move would "guarantee" a therapist in their schools three days a week, compared to their "as needed" system now - which is free for the district. "We use the services all the time," said Pope.
The increased services will cost $5,000 a year, a price Pope said is worth it as the services will help students and their families, especially those who are unable to travel to referrals in Barnwell at the Axis 1 Center or Polly Best Center. "I'm not always sure the (referrals) are always taken advantage of," said Pope.
Principals Eryl Smalls, Ernest Dotson and David Norman agreed the services would benefit their students. "It would be great because we do have children who can't get there," said Norman.
Pope said the additional time would make it more convenient for parents to be involved and could really help students dealing with different issues, which could ultimately improve their schoolwork. "Our children sometimes have problems we don't know about that affect them academically," said Pope.
"This will let them know we care," said board member Steve McCormack.
Board member Inell Waring made a motion to approve the draft contract "as it will benefit our schools," which was seconded by board member Michael Thomas. The motion was unanimously approved, though McCormack excused himself from the vote because his wife works at the mental health center.
Space will be set aside at each school for the therapist, though an exact start date has not been set. "We'll be glad to get the process started," said Pope.
In other news:
 The board presented 103 students medals for academic achievement - current third through ninth graders who scored "exemplary" on one or more subjects of the PASS test and current eleventh graders who passed the ELA and math portions of the HSAP test.
"It just made the night," said Superintendent Dr. Teresa Pope, following the meeting. She believes "it's very important we let the students and parents know how much we appreciate their hard work."
"The kids need more encouragement," said board member Michael Thomas.
Tonya James, the district's facilitator of curriculum, said the encouragement is key to their mission. "Our number one goal is to improve academic success in all subject areas," said James.
 Pope said the process towards district accreditation is "proceeding very well" as they prepare for a Dec. 2-5 visit by an accreditation team. "We're looking at everything we do," including evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, said Pope.
Norman and BHHS teacher Annette Felder presented Smalls two copies of the Alphabet book the second and fifth period keyboarding classes made for the Pre-K students at Macedonia Elementary. Felder said each student used specific formatting requirements to design a page based off of a letter of the alphabet. The students' photo appears on the front cover of the books.
 The board unanimously approved the hiring of Arlene Still as the new secretary at Macedonia Elementary.
 The board unanimously approved the second and final reading of six health related policies - three revisions to policies relating to prevention of communicable/infectious diseases and three tobacco free polices.
They also chose to use the word "will not" accept money, materials or contributions from the tobacco industry. The other option was "may not" accept.