What is Fresh Start Academy?
Fresh Start Academy is a program for children in kindergarten through Grade 2. Children recommended for the program are those who repeatedly display extreme disruptive behaviors. The behaviors, such as destruction of classrooms, running away from the classroom and causing physical harm to others, create a barrier to learning for all students. Students may be placed at the Academy only after a school has exhausted other available and appropriate interventions. Placement in the program is for about 45 days. Fresh Start will offer a setting that is data-driven, highly structured, and safe for kindergarten through Grade 2 students who persistently demonstrate behavior that impedes their ability to learn.

Program components
The Fresh Start Academy provides academic, behavioral and psychological support to participating students. The program promotes a significant emphasis on the development of socio-emotional skills including emotional self-control, emotional perspective taking, problem solving, and sustained and controlled attention. Program components are research-based and developed with consideration of social and behavioral learning theory, the science of behavior analysis, and developmental psychology.

How are students selected for the program?
Referrals for the Fresh Start Academy will be submitted through a Student Support Team (SST) or through the Student Conduct/Engagement Officer. In order for a referral to be considered by the team of educators and specialists, the following documents must be included:

  • Completed Fresh Start Academy referral document
  • Copy of the SST plan
  • Copy of the behavior specialist observations and recommendations
  • Copy of Functional Behavior Assessment
  • Copy of Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
  • Minimum of 30 days of data after implementation of BIP
  • BIP fidelity assessment completed by the SST

Why is program located outside of the child’s home school?
Fresh Start Academy is a regular CCPS program. The program provides a smaller environment to help students who need more individualized instruction and behavior modifications. The program provides a low student-to-teacher ratio as well as specialized support from a behavior specialist. CCPS anticipates the program will start with a maximum of 12 students, making it cost prohibitive to include at 22 elementary schools, all of which might not have a student with a need for the program. A centralized program allows CCPS to combine its resources and serve all children who could benefit from Fresh Start.

Is there parent input in the placement?
Parent involvement is imperative in the effectiveness of this program. Fresh Start Academy encourages parent participation and will provide support for parents in the carryover of behavioral and educational goals into the home setting.

How will students transition back to their home school?
Staff will develop an individual transition plan for each child when the child is ready to return to their home school. The transition coordinator will ensure children receive continued support at their home school by providing training to school administrators, teachers and staff on how to continue successful supports for the children. Staff from the home school will visit Fresh Start to keep a connection with the child and to learn techniques and strategies for reintegration to the classroom. Parents are an integral part of the program and will receive training to help their child and opportunities to work with Fresh Start staff.

What determined the need for the program?
CCPS is experiencing an increase in the number of young children with severe physical behaviors who are causing repeated disruption to instruction and the safety and security of classrooms. The program came out of conversations with principals, teachers and parents about what other supports the school system could provide for young children. Research shows that early intervention leads to improved outcomes for a child’s learning and development in school.

What is the staffing?
CCPS has hired a behavioral specialist as the program coordinator. There will be three certified teachers, three classroom instructional assistants, a transition coordinator and secretarial support. Additionally, counselors and school psychologists will help students attending the program. Cost of implementing the program is $452,200.

How will students be transported to the program?
Students will ride school buses dedicated to transporting Fresh Start Academy students.

Where will the program be located?
Fresh Start will be at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center in Pomfret. The program will use the space now occupied by the Lifelong Learning Center, which will move out this summer. The program space is in a separate building from the high school and middle school programs, and is located on the same campus as Dr. James Craik Elementary School. CCPS has renovation plans to tailor the building to the needs of the program and young students. Plans include four separate classrooms, a workroom, a sensory room, administrative offices and a secure entrance/exit. Elementary students’ schedules do not overlap with the middle and high school students. They arrive at least an hour after the older students and leave at least an hour after dismissal of the older students.

What is the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center?
The Robert D. Stethem Educational Center offers a number of programs for CCPS students. It is an alternative education center that serves students assigned there for discipline issues as well as students who opt into the program for its smaller class sizes and additional supports. Stethem also houses evening high school, the Virtual Academy and career-related courses for students exploring post-secondary options. Career classes include automotive technician, HVAC, interactive media, pharmacy technician and physical rehabilitation.