Sayreville Public Schools was experiencing an uptick in students leaving the district due to social and emotional issues. In 2016, the district made it a priority to fully address the needs of these students and to keep them in district. Effective School Solutions became an invaluable partner in meeting this challenge.
The Challenge Facing Sayreville Public Schools
Over the last decade, Sayreville Public Schools began to experience an increase in cases of school refusal and school avoidance among its students. This was happening with children as young as 3rd and 4th grade, but primarily among older students in middle school and high school. The underlying reasons for these behaviors were complex and varied, and the district relied on the procedures it had in place to try to resolve the issues and get the students back in school. In some cases, they were successful. But inevitably the district lost students to private out-of-district schools, which, says Superintendent Dr. Richard Labbe, wasn’t good for anyone, especially the kids. Dr. Labbe realized the district needed help to fully address the situation. “We needed a provider who both understood what to do and was able to do it.”
The Solution: In-School Wrap-Around Services
In 2016, Sayreville made the decision to partner with Effective School Solutions (ESS). Because the need was greatest at the high school, they began there. ESS implemented its Tier 3 in-district “wrap-around” model, providing embedded clinical care directly into the students’ school day.
Prevention was a primary focus at Sayreville. Incorporating mental-health professional development was essential in equipping teachers and staff to recognize the signs of trauma and to identify kids in distress. And because no one knows kids better than their families, supporting and collaborating with families was another vital part of the strategy.
The partnership with ESS proved so successful that after the second year, the district introduced the Tier 3 program at its middle school. For the 2021-22 academic year, the district is expanding further, adding ESS’s Tier 2 services to the upper elementary and its lower elementary schools. This will provide access to mental health care when these students need it.
“From the very beginning, ESS has always been willing to be flexible and to evolve to meet our needs,” says Dr. Labbe. Now as the pandemic recedes, he expects the level of need will be greater for more students and sees ESS as a critical partner in meeting this challenge.
Dr. Labbe expresses great satisfaction with the results of the partnership. “When I first met with ESS, they said that they would not only be able to bring some kids back, but they’d also be able to prevent kids from going out-of-district. And they did.” During the first year of implementation at the high school, five students returned to the school, and several others who were at risk of leaving remained.
The 2020-21 school year provided a host of new challenges. ESS remained flexible and ready to meet the district’s evolving needs. In the 2021-21 school year:
- Attendance at student group sessions was high, with more than 2,300 therapeutic check ins.
- 56% of students maintained or increased their GPA.
- Absences were decreased by 53%.
- More than 1,000 family sessions were conducted, either remotely or in-person.
Since the partnership with ESS began:
- The district has experienced a total cost savings of $4.1M.
- An estimated 41 out-of-district placements have been prevented.