School district to pay for at-risk student program

The Marshalltown Community School District has entered into an agreement to keep most of its at-risk students in town.

The district will pay Four Oaks $571,000 for school-based programming for these students for the 2013-14 school year. Four Oaks is an agency for child welfare and behavioral health.

Some of these conduct disorder students are now shipped to programs in other districts and can cost the district up to $100,000 per student for transportation, supervision and enrollment outside the district. This new program would be housed in the Marshalltown Learning Academy, and its implementation was the recommendation of Matt Cretsinger, director of special services with the district.

“I see a great benefit to it,” Cretsinger said.

As part of the agreement, Four Oaks will provide three special education teachers, six youth counselors and one program coordinator for up to 35 students in the fifth to 12th grades. There will be two conduct disorder classrooms and one classroom focused on therapeutic learning for students. The classes will follow the same curriculum as Marshalltown schools.

In many cases, enrollment in these programs can work as an alternative to expulsion for students who have gotten into trouble. Cretsinger has worked with Four Oaks in other districts and feels this would be the best way for the district to support these at-risk students.

Cretsinger said there is also a possibility to have students from other districts brought in to this program to help pay for the cost of it. The contract with Four Oaks has options for a second and third year.

Marshalltown Superintendent Marvin Wade said this offering will not eliminate any other program in the district.

“It’s an improvement from what we can offer,” Wade said.