Middletown Area School District administrators and teachers are spending the summer working on a program for students who have experienced trauma.
The goal is to make kids feel safe and supported.
“For some kids, it’s outward and they’re verbally aggressive, and in some instances physically aggressive,” said Middletown Special Education Director Krystal Palmer. “In other cases, there are kids who are withdrawn.”
Palmer is talking about children who have experienced trauma, like abuse or extreme poverty. Some students have family members with addictions or who are incarcerated.
“It’s different for each kiddo,” said Palmer.
“We saw a need escalate over the last few years, and decided we needed to start thinking out of the box,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori Suski.
Suski says that’s when the district decided to create the MATES program, which stands for Middletown Area Therapeutic Elementary Support.
“We also knew we needed to do something to have the students in a setting that would allow the other students who are not experiencing those things to have less distractions in their learning environment,” said Suski.
Kids in the program will spend the entire school year in classrooms with ten or less students learning behavior management and coping strategies.
“All of the staff are being trauma-certified,” said Palmer. “The kids will get individual and group counseling, and that will happen as frequently as needed.”
There are about about 20 students registered for the program so far, with room for others to join throughout the year.
While the district has three elementary schools, all of the kids in the program will come to Fink Elementary School.
The district says all parents of the kids enrolled in MATES were on board with the idea.
School officials say they developed the program using existing resources.