RISE Transition Center

RISE Transition Center set to open with dedicated at-risk staff
Posted on 08/12/2019
RISE Transition Center logo

The new RISE Transition Center will open during the 2019/20 school year as a pilot program for the planned alternative school to help address behavioral issues that students, grades 7-12, are struggling with in the regular education setting. 

Located next door to the Poplar Bluff R-I Administrative Building, RISE – which stands for restore, inspire, support and enlighten—will be staffed with a certified educator and paraprofessional to service upward of 30 Poplar Bluff Junior and Senior High students, with a goal of branching out to the Middle School. 

“With the construction of the new Early Childhood Center, there is hope on the horizon [for an alternative school], but we have kids who have behaved their way out of the traditional environment and have urgent needs to be addressed right now,” stated Dr. Scott Dill, superintendent of schools. “Our obligation to help these students rise to their full potential is no less significant than with any other student in the district.”

The future Early Childhood Center on the Kindergarten Center site is on track to be completed in the fall with intentions for preschool students to occupy the state-of-the-art facility during the 2020/21 school year. Discussions are underway with the Long-Range Planning Committee to open an alternative school at the vacated Mark Twain campus on North Main Street afterward, however the Transition Center will serve to catch students falling through the cracks in the short term.

Between 15-20 seats at the Transition Center will be reserved for select students on long-term suspension and the balance of openings will be left to the discretion of Junior and Senior High administrators to utilize for students who may benefit from a more intimate classroom setting with support services available. 

“This will allow those children to continue their education and receive services to help transition back to the high school,” explained Rod Priest, assistant superintendent of business, now retired. “Although all actions have consequences, the ultimate goal is not to throw punishment at students, it’s to restore them. It’s the tough part about the job – trying to reach all kids; every hour, every day.”

As one of his final orders of business, Priest, who is credited for coming up with the acronym for RISE, helped identify a location for the program beside Chartwells’ food storage facility. Over the summer, maintenance personnel have renovated the former industrial arts building to feature multiple classrooms, office space and restroom facilities. 

The original plan was to dedicate space on the Mark Twain campus in the oldest part of the building for a suspension center, however the 1951 structure would require the most amount of renovation, thus taking more time to complete than the 1987 and 2008 additions designated for other non-traditional programming. 

The Board of Education unanimously approved the added positions to operate the Transition Center during the May meeting with hope the fiscal decision will be a net neutral based on attendance days previously lost to suspensions. Juvenile officer Dee Jones of the 36th Judicial Circuit Court, who has collaborated with the district through its truancy program over the past two years, was hired to serve as lead teacher at RISE. Jones taught in public schools in Doniphan and Arkansas for over a decade prior to her recent post at the Butler County Juvenile Justice Center. 

“From my experiences teaching in a regular setting, it’s hard to juggle the attention needed in the classroom when so much of your time is dedicated to addressing bad behavior, which is just a cry for help,” Jones observed. “The ones that struggle need the same attention, but they may not be able to find it through academics.” 

Social and emotional skills will be assessed in small group sessions through the district’s partnership with FCC Behavioral Health, and counselors will be on hand to provide trauma-informed care, according to school officials. Students will be able to utilize existing technology through the 1:1 laptop initiative and learning platforms in place such as Schoology to access curriculum for make-up assignments. 

“We hired a teacher that has a great deal of experience working with youth who have experienced trials and tribulations in life, and she has a good understanding of what it is gonna take to help them overcome those issues to be able to focus on education,” said Misty Dodson, R-I attendance officer. “We’re rethinking the way we interact with students and discipline because many times behavioral issues are rooted in things outside of school, and we’re going to be able to start addressing that [with more intention].”

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