PINEVILLE -- McDonald County High School has started the "Handle with Care" program, a program that alerts teachers and necessary staff members that a particular student may be having a more difficult day.
Handle with Care, a program that was initially intended for students who were involved in or witnessed an event that required police intervention, has morphed into a program for any student who may need to be treated with additional care during the school day.
Erica Price, school/family liaison at MCHS, is one of the coordinators for the Handle with Care program. Price said this school year is the first year that parents, or other faculty members, can notify Price with a "Handle with Care" text message.
For Price to be notified that a student may need additional care or leeway during the day, parents, students, teachers, 911 operators or officers can text the phrase "Handle with Care" alongside the student's name and grade to 417-413-4879. Price said no questions are asked when she receives this message and she passes along the information to necessary teachers and staff members.
"For me, I think this program just gives us a day of grace," Price said. "And a lot of times, what stems from this is a kiddo needing services beyond just grace. They may be needing therapy or be needing anything."
Price said, for students, a "day of grace" may mean they need an additional day to complete their homework, they may not want to be called on in class, or they may fall asleep during class time.
Price said knowing students may be struggling with something outside of school is helpful in offering a student more understanding without instinctively sending the student to the principal's office for improper behavior.
"This way, they're not getting the added stress and pressure," Price said. "We want to see it perpetuate to give more understanding and some trauma-informed care for our school."
Angie Brewer, MCHS principal, assists and advocates for the Handle with Care program at the school. Brewer said the program helps parents and students build a more trusting relationship with school faculty.
"Our goal is for parents to develop a more trusting relationship with us so that we all work together for the good of our students," Brewer said. "We're all on the same team. The kids have a success team -- parents, school, their community, church -- we're all in it together."
Brewer said, so far this year, the changes made to the program have been overwhelmingly positive, with many students participating in the program when they need it. Brewer added that the goal of the program is not to seek information about a situation that occurred but rather to offer a loving environment following a stressful situation.
"When we say, 'every child, every day, whatever it takes,' that has to be what we really mean and how we really act," Brewer said. "It can't just be something that we say; it has to be how we live and breathe."
The Handle with Care program is a program that's primarily offered at the high school. However, Price noted that any individual who wishes to inform the school of a child going through a difficult event may send a "Handle with Care" message to Price.
So far this year, 15 students have been "handled with care" at school, all of which have proven to be positive and helpful experiences for students and staff alike.