MARION, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - The Linn-Mar School district is teaming up with Four Oaks to help at-risk boys succeed in the classroom.
The program is called ATLAS, which stands for Achieving Transition through Learning, Advancement and Success.
Since mid-November, the program has served 23 students. Program leaders released eight of them to either go to other programs or go home following completion of the program.
Five have transitioned into the public schools setting, with four at Linn-Mar High School and one at Excelsior Middle School.
Four Oaks houses the ATLAS program in its new residential facility at 4000 Highway 151 in Marion. That means students don't just go to school there, they live there too. About fifteen students live there now, but that will expand to 27 as Four Oaks opens a new unit in just weeks.
One portion of the building is just the school. It comes complete with two classrooms and a gym, but there are signs that this school program is different.
"This room is also used for students who maybe are going through some sort of trauma or some sort of emotional event that has happened,” said Linn-Mar Director of Transition Christine McSweeney as she pointed out an office.
Linn-Mar and Four Oaks are helping students from across Iowa with educational and mental health needs.
"All of our young men have come in by a court order by the Department of Human Services or Juvenile Court Services and [have] just an array of different pieces in the background [like] some behavioral issues and mental health issues,” said Four Oaks Program Officer Ron Karkosh.
The classrooms are quiet now because it's spring break. Boys ages 12 to 17 take part in the ATLAS program.
"It's a much more structured environment so behaviorally and socially and emotionally they need a little more structure. So, we provide that structure for them, but the goal is always to transition them back into the public school setting,” McSweeney said.
Linn-Mar said five students have already made that transition into Linn-Mar schools. Eventually many will go back to their home districts.
“They come here for six or nine months, even 12 [months]. It’s a very short period of time. So, the hard work that the boys do here with the Four Oaks staff, with the Linn-Mar teachers and stuff, gives them an opportunity to go back home and be whole with their family all over again. That's really the goal,” Karkosh said.
Four Oaks said there are other programs like this residential facility with a school program across Iowa.
This residential program moved into the bigger Marion facility from Independence. Program leaders said their new home allows them to expand and have access to other organizations that help the students.
McSweeney said she is excited about the opportunities this program could provide for the district in the future. Linn-Mar had to provide the schooling for this program because Four Oaks bought the building within the Linn-Mar district.