Arrow in Harford closing Creswell school, expanding in Riverside

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The Arrow School in Harford County is closing one of its campuses and expanding another beginning this summer, according to organization officials.

The Riverside School in Belcamp, which serves students with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges, will be expanding from third through eighth grades to include ninth through 12th grades beginning July 1, Kristin McMahon said.

The same day, Fair Meadows campus on Creswell Road in Creswell will be closing and the students in grades six to 12 will be moving to the Riverside school, she said.

The Arrow Center for Education in Maryland provides specialized education opportunities for children who need an alternative to traditional public education, according to its website, www.arrow.org.

“Riverside has newer facilities,” McMahon said. “There was a low census at Fair Meadows, so we can roll the program into one and create a more impactful community.”

Programs in kindergarten through third grade will no longer be offered at Riverside.

“If there was a student who was in grades kindergarten through third grade who required a similar setting, they would, after this school year, need to attend a different program,” Susan Barnes-McLendon, vice president of schools for Arrow, said. “Luckily, that does not affect any of our current students. We have enjoyed our work with the youngest students in the past but they are very, very rarely served outside the public school setting in schools like ours. This also keeps us from ‘spreading ourselves too thin’ and trying to address too many grade levels in one building.”

A residential, transitional group home for girls ages 13 to 21, called Crossroads, is also offered on the Creswell Road campus. It is separate from the Fair Meadows school and will remain open, McMahon said.

Once Fair Meadows has closed, Oak Grove Classical Christian School, based at Oak Grove Baptist Church, will occupy the vacated building, Oak Grove’s principal said.

The Riverside School, at 1370 Brass Mill Road in Belcamp, which opened in 2016, will be able to accommodate up to 45 students when it expands, McMahon said.

To attend Riverside School, considered a non-public private placement school, students must be referred by the public school system, McMahon said, and they must have an active IEP, individualized education plan.

The IEP process begins with the student’s home school IEP team, according to Jillian Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools.

If the school cannot support the student’s needs, he or she is referred to the Central Office IEP team to determine if HCPS can support that student, Lader said.

If HCPS determines the student requires resources not available within the school system to receive educational benefit, the Central IEP team identifies the non-public schools that have the services and supports that match the needs of the student.

The student along with their parents/guardians interview with the identified non-public placements. When the non-public school accepts the student and the parents/guardians agree to the placement, HCPS supports the selected placement.

“If their IEP hasn’t worked in a special education setting in public school, they are sent to Arrow or a like facility,” McMahon said. “There, they get one-on-one assistance, insight therapy. We work with families outside of school and offer a food pantry for osme of hte parents who might not be able to afford meals.”

In Fiscal Year 2017, from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, the Harford County public school system piad $1.3 million to Arrow Riverside, $846,152 to Arrow Fair Meadows and $425,691 to Arrow Partnership, according to information provided by Lader.

Through March of FY 18, the school system paid $846,152 to Arrow Riverside, $432,569 to Arrow Fair Meadows and $253,494 to Arrow Partnership, according to the data.

According to the website, “students are diploma track, though with the ability to individualize programming, students earning a certificate of completion may also be enrolled. Many of our students have an IEP that identify an emotional disability, specific learning disability or multiple disabilities, though other students with autism, intellectual disabilities and other health impairments have been served to great success.”

Grades six to eight that are being served at both schools will be consolidated beginning in July.

“Middle schoolers, even though they are only grades six to eight, present with a wide range of social, emotional and academic maturity,” Barnes-McLendon said.

The programming at each school complements the other, she said.

“Both feature a high level of clinical support and academic individualization, and high staff to student ratio. The younger students at Riverside are more likely to have speech and occupational therapy, and those supports will remain for the students that need then as the grades expand,” Barnes-McLendon said. “Ancillary supports for families, such as treatment team, psychiatric services and community food pantry were available to both programs. The differences were the curriculum used (because of the difference of grade levels served) and the addition of vocational and post-secondary transition services at Fair Meadows, which will now be present at Riverside.

The goal is to return students to a less restrictive environment, according to the website.

Typically, the less restrictive environment is the student’s home public school, often with special education supports, McMahon said.

“The length of time students remain with Arrow Fair Meadows varies greatly — some students return to their public school after several quarters, other remain with us for multiple years and end of graduating from the program,” she said.

The decision to return to the home school is made by the central IEP team, which includes the student and family, the treatment team at the Arrow Fair Meadows school, members of the home public school, and representatives from the central county special education office, Barnes-McLendon said.

Students can return at any point, but logistically it’s best to do it at the start of a quarter or marking period. Marking periods in Arrow’s programs in Harford parallel those of the public school, which “helps families who may have one child in public school and one in our schools,” she said.

Arrow’s schools also offer an additional academic quarter over the summer to keep students from losing academic and clinical gains that can occur between June and September, Barnes-McLendon said.

“We recognize that working with students who are in their most formative years of school gives us a unique and powerful opportunity to provide interventions that can have a positive impact for years to come,” according to the site.

“We are excited about the opportunity to maximize our resources to provide a thriving education program that best serves our students in Harford County,” Jennifer McGlothlin-Renault, vice president of Maryland operations for Arrow Child & Family Ministries, said in a news release announcing the expansion. “This new transformation will make our educational programs stronger for our students.”

An open house of the Riverside School will be scheduled in the fall.

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