Just before the 2019-20 school year started, the Wilkes County Board of Education decided to replace a program that has been praised for what it accomplished for students with serious mental health needs.

The therapeutic day treatment program in place for four years through a partnership with Daymark Recovery Services was replaced by an in-house program called BEST (Behavioral, Emotional, Social and Therapeutic) Academy.

Explaining the change, Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd said Daymark had told school officials that it no longer would be able to serve many of the school system’s students with the greatest behavioral issues, even though they previously were accepted in the day treatment classes.

The issue appears to partly involve how and to what extent Daymark feels its staff should physically restrain students when this appears to be needed. We understand Wilkes school officials had other concerns as well.

There are indications and high hopes that the BEST Academy will better serve students’ needs, but time will tell.

It’s too bad that Daymark, students in the day treatment program and parents of the students didn’t learn about the change from Wilkes school officials until just a little over a week before classes started this year.

Statements of school board members and Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd make it clear that the issue was discussed in at least one closed session during a school board meeting.

It wasn’t discussed or voted on in the open portion of the Aug. 5 Wilkes school board meeting or earlier school board meetings. It would seem that it could have been discussed in public without compromising the purposes of closed sessions.

The Wilkes Journal-Patriot only learned about this change in behavioral health care of students in the Wilkes schools through a letter (not intended for publication) from a person connected to the matter to the newspaper.

Only after the newspaper inquired about the change after receiving the letter did Byrd issue a press release explaining what had transpired.

For that matter, the fact that the school board seldom discusses anything to any significant extent in the open portions of its monthly meetings is concerning. This has been the case for several years.

More open discussion of issues and decisions (before they are made) in Wilkes Board of Education meetings would better serve the public.

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