Superintendent Dan Maeder said the Davis County School District — like many school districts across the nation — is seeing an increased number of students with mental health and behavioral disorders that require therapy.

“We are trying to figure out what support they need to be successful in the classroom,” he said.

“We know that the mental health crisis has grown in youth the last few years. Everyone is seeing this,” he said. “It’s societal, and we’re having to create and use new tools that we haven’t had to use before.”

Maeder said the need is much greater in the lower grades, and for that reason the district has hired the services of a mental health professional to serve on site at Davis County Elementary for a few hours each week.

The therapist will meet directly with individual students and also conduct group sessions with students who need the services.

Maeder said the district is also excited about working in cooperation with a consortium of seven districts in the southwest corner of Great Prairie AEA to provide two therapeutic classrooms — one for kindergarten through fourth grades and the other for fifth through eighth grades. The classrooms will be centrally located in Blakesburg.

Those students will have access to highly trained teachers, specifically trained interventionists, and therapists to provide the support they need, Maeder said.

In the past, Davis County has transported kids to Centerville, Mt. Pleasant, Des Moines and Iowa City to have their mental and behavioral health needs met.

“Now we will be able to receive the needed services in a neighboring district,” Maeder said. “We will have access to the relationships needed to transition these students back into the classroom,” he said. “We believe this will make a significant difference.”

Maeder said there will be seven or eight students per classroom and Davis County will have one of the first opportunities to fill seats. “With this effort we can provide kids with the therapy they need to be able to be successful in the regular classroom,” he said.

“There will be a fairly rigorous standard for kids to be accepted into the program. It won’t be just ‘We have trouble with this kid.’ There are perimeters that have been developed.”

No additional services are planned for high school students, where there seems to be less need. Maeder said the Flex Ed program works to serve the needs at that level on an individual basis.

While Maeder said some of the children’s problems may have been manifested by the pandemic, the school year for Davis County has been more normal than abnormal. He believes that those districts that have done nothing but virtual instruction the past year will have more issues when they come back to school than what Davis County has experienced.