EASTHAMPTON — A national program that helps students who need intensive mental health support is on the verge of coming to Easthampton High School next school year.

During its regular meeting on May 14, the Easthampton School Committee unanimously approved a memorandum of agreement between Easthampton Public Schools and the Brookline Center to establish the “bryt program” at Easthampton High School for the next two years.

Known as a “general education tier three support,” the bryt program will specifically help students on extended mental health-related absences or any kind of medical treatment or medical injury absence, like a concussion or something that is or is not documented in an individualized education program.

According to Julie Ann Levin, the district’s director of Curriculum and Grants, any student who has an absence from school or a school refusal for five or more days would be eligible for this program.

“We have students that need intensive support, and sometimes because special education is the only option for intensive support, students are found eligible for that support when we could be using a much more short-term, flexible model to provide that intervention,” Levin said. “So, that’s what bryt is. Bryt is a general education intensive tier three support.”

According to Levin, a student support team consisting of a clinical coordinator, from bryt, an academic coordinator, counselors from the high school and the student’s family would all come together to create a four-pronged transition plan to help the student recover from their prolonged absence and transition back into school.

Part of the transition plan, according to Levin, will include what is known as a “bryt room,” which will be a dedicated “peaceful” and “productive” home space inside the school that helps the student build back stamina through wraparound care and therapeutic intervention.

“This is the clinical coordinator, academic coordinator, counselors and teachers sort of all coming together to provide this embrace support, whole child support for students who are experiencing absence from school for any number of reasons,” Levin said.

The school district first acknowledged a need for this two years ago when they reached out about the program. Now, through grant funding from the Brookline Center, Easthampton Public Schools can implement a pilot program at the high school with hopes of also expanding it to the Mountain View School if all goes well.

Levin said that staffing for the program will be fully funded the first year of the pilot by the grant, and then the Easthampton school district will have to make a funding commitment for the second year that is the equivalent of 0.5 FTE teacher and a 0.5 FTE paraeducator.

“We need to gather data and make sure this is the right model for our community, but I’m really optimistic about that,” Levin said. “I think that we can show you that this is something that students really need.”

Interim Superintendent Maureen Binienda expressed support for the program during the meeting, arguing that it is an effective intervention plan for students who really need it.

“This is an opportunity for those kids that really do need that intervention that we’re not providing as intensive as we should because we just don’t have the staff, and they need that level three, and we don’t want them to go out of district placements,” Binienda said. “This is a great opportunity.”

According to Levin, the plan is to work with staff at the high school to figure out what the bryt room would look like.

“Our students are dealing with a lot right now,” said School Committee member Megan Harvey. “This is exactly what parents have been writing to us and telling us that they are asking for their kids.”

Readers can learn more about the program by visiting the Brookline Center website: https://www.brooklinecenter.org/centers/bryt/

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