Scott City Elementary School refocus room helping students after behavioral issues, emotional needs

Heartland school seeing success with "refocus room"
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT
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SCOTT CITY, Mo. (KFVS) - A school in the Heartland is seeing positive outcomes with a special room designed to help students in the classroom.

Scott City Elementary School has a refocus room to help students stay on task after behavioral issues or emotional needs.

“We saw a huge need in our students to have an area,” Scott City Elementary School Principal Keisha Panagos said. “We were seeing a lot of frustration coming off of COVID and people being pent up at home. All of the emotions just kind of bled down to our students and we were seeing such a huge impact of a need for students to have a safe place to go when they had those extreme emotions and didn’t know how to deal with it.”

This room has been used for the past year to help students, which has resulted in reduced suspensions, an increase in grades and increased focus in a learning environment.

“A lot of times with the students, it was just discipline issues,” Panagos said. “It was writing up for disrespect or not being compliant in the classroom, not following classroom expectations, physical aggression, things like that. So, they would just be sent to the office and as a principal, I’m just trying to handle all of the issues and a lot of times it would just result in suspension. We knew that wasn’t getting to the core of what we needed to focus on with these children.”

As students enter the refocus room, they can use various items like a punching bag, a zen garden, privacy tent, stress balls and more.

Positive Behavior Support Specialist Laura Pletcher helps the students with their issues in the refocus room. She said the room, along with faculty and staff, provide support to help the student recover and return to learning.

“We all just kind of work together as a team and figure out what we can do to support these children,” Pletcher said. “They all need it. We all need it. I want them to feel loved, I want them to feel safe and if they’re angry, they can be angry in here but let’s talk about why and how we can handle that.”

Before the student enters the refocus room, the student will be observed in the classroom setting and a determination is made on what best fits the child’s need and how to approach it.

“I’ll go in and observe the student to kind of see what they’re doing in the classroom and what their behavior is,” Pletcher said. “After that, then I’ll sit down with the Care team and the teacher, we’ll sit down and decide what will work best for them.”

Pletcher said it may be as simple as bringing in an item for a student to fidget with so they can focus better, as others are referred to the refocus room for other types of supportive interventions.

“Some kids do get referred but they don’t really come to my room,” Pletcher said. “I just would talk to the teacher and say that I think we can work with some tier 1 interventions and work with them in the classroom and get things solved there. But, there’s those ones that are explosive or if they’re a disruption to the classroom, they will usually be considered a care team student.”

Panagos further explained to us this room has drastically reduced the number of out-of-school suspensions from what would likely be up to eight students a year, now down to one.

“The children didn’t just need to be sent home,” Panagos said. “They needed a place where they could go and have an adult work with them on looking internally and seeing what are the triggers, why am I getting upset and then working through those situations in a positive manner.”

Panagos said she has seen students that don’t start their day off very well come in and get on track and restore their desire to want to learn.

“A lot of these students are coming from households where they might have not ate breakfast in the morning, they might have stayed up all night playing video games, or parents argue and keep them up,” Panagos said. “They get here and they’re all frazzled, but having this room to be able to come to and check in with a caring adult and start their day on a positive note, we’ve seen a huge turnaround. It’s enabled them to have a productive, awesome day. They look forward to coming to school.”