New Bartlesville program helps students struggling in typical classroom

Posted at 5:26 PM, Sep 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-11 19:31:06-04

BARTLESVILLE — A new Bartlesville Public Schools program is helping young students who struggle in a regular classroom setting.

The Elementary ATLAS (Alternative Therapeutic Learning Academic Setting) program puts certain students in a learning environment more tailored to their needs instead of worksheets, projects and group work.

"We kind of trick them. A lot of them will say, when are we doing school? This is school," said Heather Boyle, ATLAS teacher. "But they don't realize it's school because it's not your typical sit at a table or, you know, work sheets, workbooks, kind of thing."

The program started after the district noticed an increase in students acting out in class. They also realized some students needed a different approach.

"We're understanding that punitive is not always best practice for kids who have trauma," said Chanda Myers, principal at Ranch Heights Elementary School. "And what we're learning and trying to create is a place where they can feel safe, be safe, and so that we can help them to regulate and get them back into the regular classroom setting."

These students aren't only getting help from teachers. There are also mental health professionals in the classroom to help with social and emotional learning.

"They get to work on maybe some personal stuff that they are struggling with, some home stuff that they're struggling with, even in the classroom that they're struggling with," said Amber Thompson, child services administrator for Grand Lake Mental Health in Washington County. "And they get to work on the aspect of their feelings and being able to process those as well as just regulating their emotions."

There are four adults for 12 Kindergarten-2nd graders in the morning and 12 3rd-5th graders in the afternoon. One teacher, a teacher's aide, a therapist and a behavioral health coach.

Each morning starts with a family breakfast and a community circle. The program is giving consistency and structure to students who may not have it outside of school.

"Many of these kids were out of the classroom so much in the past due to just not being able to be in there that they weren't getting to have a lot of academic learning," said Dianne Martinez, executive director of Bartlesville Elementary Education.

The program works with the parents to help students in the classroom and at home.