A seemingly abrupt end to the contract with mental health support services at Franklin Elementary School has upset several parents who are concerned about the insensitive timing of the change.
This week, the school announced the decision to terminate its contract with Full Circle Mental Health, thereby relieving the four mental and behavioral specialists who have been working closely with students at the school.
The transition is disruptive and worrisome, said Libby Knutson, one of the concerned Franklin parents.
For some of the students, the therapists are intricately involved in their lives every day at school, helping them be successful academically and socially, Knutson said.
To give students just three days to say goodbye to important and helpful people in their life is insensitive at any time, Knutson said. But to make this part of the students’ holiday break at a time when mental health services and school safety are on everyone’s minds because of the Connecticut school shootings is just not right, she said.
Among Knuston’s many worries is the time when students transition back to school after the holidays.
“That is such a stressful time for everyone, and the students need to come back to something familiar and safe,” Knutson said. “Considering what just happened in our nation, I think it’s not a good time to shake up mental health support anywhere.”
Although the decision appeared to be a sudden one, it was made with great deliberation throughout the fall, said Karen Allen, regional director of teaching and learning for Missoula County Public Schools.
MCPS has been working in collaboration with several community mental health providers to provide support to most of the district’s schools.
The collaboration is part of a statewide effort called the Comprehensive School Community Treatment program.
As the focus of mental health needs and behavioral programming change, so does the relationship with contractor providers, Allen said.
“We have contracts with these organizations, and on occasion we end a contract and begin a contract with another provider,” Allen said. “That’s what happened at Franklin.”
Allen was not at liberty to discuss the details behind the decision to end the contract with Full Circle, but said she is helping Franklin’s administrative team find another provider and will have new support staff in place when school resumes after the holidays.
“As we plan for the future, we will develop strategies that are more efficient,” Allen said.
“I respect the fact that parents may be feeling uncomfortable and have many questions about this, the major one being, ‘How is this going to affect my child and how can my child move forward in a positive way?’
“Those are our questions we are working on as well, and we want the transitions to be as seamless as possible. Unfortunately, change happens in ways and at times we wished worked out differently.
“We want to have the best team for the site.”
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at email@example.com.