Citing the increasing number and severity of students coming to school with behavioral health issues, Maryville City Schools is bringing in two master’s level clinicians to help.

The Maryville Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a contract with Helen Ross McNabb Center to provide the services at a cost of at least $91,500 for this school year.

The center already has been providing one staff member at the district’s two intermediate schools, funded by a state grant to the center, and that is continuing.

During the past school year, Harmony Family Center provided a counselor for Maryville’s elementary schools under a state grant, but that funding has not been renewed.

The contract approved Monday provides one “school behavioral health liaison” to work with the three elementary schools and one to work with Maryville Junior High, High School and alternative school, Director Mike Winstead explained.

School guidance counselors can handle most students, he said, but these therapists will focus on an estimated 3% to 5% of students who have the most severe needs.

The clinicians will assess students; provide individual, group and family therapy; coordinate care services; and provide consultation and training for school personnel. One will be on a 10-month schedule and one will work year-round.

“They would be an integral part of the school,” with a consistent schedule at each school, Winstead told the board before its vote on the contract.

The McNabb Center will bill the state’s Medicaid program for allowable services. If TennCare referrals are less than 65% of each clinician’s caseload, Maryville City Schools will pay more, up to an additional $10,000.

“The need is the need,” Winstead said, regardless of whether a student is covered by TennCare or not. “So we’re going to provide counseling to meet those needs.”

In an interview after the meeting, Winstead said while public schools have always had some students with severe mental health and behavior issues, the number and severity have been increasing.

“We can’t allow the behavior of one student to disrupt the whole classroom,” he said.

Students may have experienced a range of adverse childhood experiences (ACES), some of which may have lasting affects on their brains and ability to control themselves, experts say.

Schools are seeing students as young as kindergarten and first grade with behaviors such as being physically aggressive to school staff and throwing furniture.

“We owe it to everyone in that classroom to be sure the teacher is able to teach,” Winstead said.

He told the board that Gov. Bill Lee is expected to release a mental health plan in the next few weeks. “Hopefully that will involve additional grant money,” the director said.

July 30, 2020

In other action Monday, the school board approved a 2020-21 calendar that will start classes Thursday, July 30, 2020.

This year the first day of classes in Maryville City Schools will be Tuesday, Aug. 6 — the latest start in more than a decade.

Board member Chad Hampton cast the only “No” during the voice vote. He explained before the board voted, “It’s a mind thing. I don’t like starting in July.”

Other school board members cited the value of beginning with a less-than-full week, particularly at the elementary schools, as students are learning the rules and procedures.

In the 2020-21 school year, the last day for students before winter break will be Dec. 15, 2020, and the first day back in class will be Jan. 5, 2021.

Fall break and spring break each are a week, but with two additional days for intervention or professional development, giving most students seven school days and two weekends off for the breaks.

The last day for students will be May 20, 2021.

Winstead explained the calendar provides 176 instructional days with four for professional development, compared with recent years of 175 days of classes and five for professional development.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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