• Brookings to open alternative school this fall, move special ed preschool
BROOKINGS – The Brookings School District will meet what Superintendent Roger DeGroot called a “new concern” this fall, when it opens an alternative school for middle and high school students.
It’s also looking ahead to future facility needs and moving its pre-school special education program to a different building.
The Brookings School Board met mid-day Tuesday in its administration building conference room, to discuss future facility needs and the opportunity to transfer funds from the district’s capital outlay fund to its general fund.
To begin the discussion about future facility needs, DeGroot identified three areas of critical need: Lack of adequate space at both K-3 buildings; lack of adequate space for special education, specifically early childhood special education; and lack of adequate space for a 6-12 alternative school.
Brookings previously had an alternative school, Select High, but nothing in recent years. DeGroot said the district now has a need for such a school for its students with behavioral problems.
The new alternative school will serve sixth- through 12th-grade students and be located in the career and technical education center of Brookings High School, previously the multi-district building.
“We’re taking the office area and a conference room and a storeroom area – actually, it’s two storeroom areas – and we’re redesigning that into a behavioral school for our middle school and high school.”
One teacher and a classroom aide have already been assigned to the alternative school, Degroot said.
The superintendent noted that enrollment there will start out low but could rise quickly if the district isn’t careful.
“We’ll start with probably four kids from the high school and two from the middle school, and that’s up from where we thought we were going to be when we started talking about that,” DeGroot said. “And I caution them and you that, if we’re not careful, that will grow too rapidly. It will be 10 by the end of the year, very easily.”
He said districts one-third the size of Brookings have more students in their alternative schools, including Brandon, which he said reserves 30 slots in a behavioral school in Sioux Falls for its students. The school could become too easy an option for students that are difficult to deal with, and the district will have to guard against assigning them to the alternative school without real need.
The district is right now designing criteria for admittance to the alternative school. Once there, a student will probably stay for the duration of the year, DeGroot said. They’ll need to follow certain steps to return to Mickelson or BHS.
As for the special education pre-school program, DeGroot said that has been housed at Camelot Intermediate School for the past three years, in rooms originally designated for social skills education.
Camelot now needs those rooms for their original purpose, so the preschool program needs to find a new space. He said the district has found a short-term solution at Mickelson Middle School.
“We’re taking those preschool kids out of Camelot and we’re repurposing the old shop area in the middle school for those students,” he said.
The space is being renovated to include two classrooms, two speech therapy rooms and a family-style bathroom. The renovation will be done in such a way that it can be used again by the middle school when a new building is built for the early childhood special education program.
“That will be done by fall. We designed that so it could be used for middle school stuff when we’re done with that space for preschool. It’s got a separate entrance, two separate entrances to it, I think it’s a good short-term solution.”
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