Darus Mettler, special education director at ESU 7, stands next to a building that will house a new behavioral health program he said he hopes to get underway for the 2019-20 school year.

Columbus Public Schools board members are “interested” in joining a consortium of school districts that would be part of an educational behavior health and support program to be placed on the Educational Service Unit 7 campus in Columbus.

CPS board members recently voted unanimously to OK a resolution expressing interest in taking part in the program during a board meeting. CPS’ interest in the ESU 7 program doesn’t obligate the district financially.

The program will provide full-day services to students who qualify for special education and are requiring specialized instruction to support behavioral skill deficits.

“The goal of the program is to develop educational and behavioral skills in order to transition the students back to the home district,” said Darus Mettler, special education director for the Columbus-based ESU.

The target is to have the program up and running in time for the 2019-20 school year.

Mettler told the CPS board the program will be housed in an existing building on the ESU 7 campus after remodeling to meet program specifications.

The program, he said, would be available to the 19 school districts that ESU 7 serves in the counties of Platte, Boone, Colfax, Nance, Merrick, Polk and Butler. The other ESU 7 districts have also supported moving forward with the program.

In his presentation to CPS, Mettler said the EBHP allows for quality educational and behavioral health programming to all the school districts. The collaborative efforts of districts are expected to open the door for more specialized instruction to students in the ESU 7 area.

The program will be staffed with a principal, behavior teachers, paraprofessionals, a licensed mental health professional and board-certified behavioral analysts, he said.

The ESU program aims to provide individual and group support to students through behavior intervention plans and individualized education plans, the special education director said. The students will also receive social-emotional learning opportunities which will be a vital component of the program, he noted.

Mettler said “transitioning” back to the home district will be an individualized decision and process.

“The pace and timing of the transition will be determined in such a way to bring about the most successful experience for the student transitioning as well as the student and teachers in the home district,” he said.

Jim Osborn is a reporter at The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at jim.osborn@lee.net.


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