CLARION - The Clarion Area School Board Jan. 2 held a specially scheduled meeting to approve a contract between the district and the Clarion Psychiatric Center.

The agreement relates to educational services provided by Clarion Area to eligible children receiving inpatient services at the center.

Both parties began conversations around a potential agreement in August of last year.

According to the contract, the district began providing such services Jan. 6 and will for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

The agreement will continue unless terminated in writing by the district and CPC.

Along with approval of the contract, the board approved the hiring of teacher Jessica Maher at a salary of $45,327 pending proper clearances.

Maher was one of three applicants interviewed for the position Dec. 30, 2019, and will help to provide services for students at the center.

"We're excited about her," said district superintendent Joe Carrico. "She has a reading specialist degree plus a special education K-12 and elementary degree."

The contract between the district and CPC further states within 24 hours of a student being admitted into the facility for inpatient services, CPC shall provide the district with written notice of various informational items.

Those include the student's name, birth date, school district of residence and any other information requested by the district.

The Pennsylvania Public School Code authorizes the district to charge each student's resident school the district's tuition rate for the services provided to a student.

"It's kind of blended and it depends on if the kids are there for a while," said Carrico regarding provided curriculum at the facility. "We try to honor the sending school's curriculum and the teacher coordinates a lot of that work with the sending schools. It's a process."

Carrico added roughly 200-300 students per year could be afforded educational services at CPC.

"They're from across the commonwealth so they could be from every school district," Carrico said.

For any student who is determined by CPC to be inpatient during the majority of the mandated state testing window, the district will be responsible for administering all mandated and required state and local assessments and to ensure each student is provided with the appropriate resources.

Those resources could include, if applicable, what is required by a student's Individualized Education Program.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, an IEP is a written plan for the provision of services for the education of students who are disabled or gifted.

School districts are responsible for locating, identifying, and evaluating all students with suspected disabilities, including but not limited to evaluating students for whom a request for an evaluation has been made.

Among responsibilities within the contract, the center will be in charge of providing at least one full-time behavioral/mental health associate to maintain classroom discipline.

Board member Julie McCormick asked Carrico what happens in the event there are no students who require services at the center during a given time.

"I don't think the numbers drop low," said Carrico, adding the center had increased to approximately 36 beds during his tenure at Clarion. "They're never in the teens."

Carrico also said the center would only offer educational services to inpatient students while the district is in session, as the agreement dictates CPC will operate off Clarion Area's schedule.