Montgomery County Public Schools recently formed a new partnership to enable students struggling with addiction to both recover and graduate from high school.
Thanks to a grant from Governor Larry Hogan intended to target the opioid epidemic, MCPS can start enrolling students in the new program sooner than previously planned, said MCPS Student Health and Wellness Coordinator Elizabeth Rathbone.
MCPS will partner with Family Services, Inc., a local organization in Gaithersburg, which offers substance abuse recovery programs.
“MCPS is now coming alongside [Family Services, Inc.],” said spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala. “They’ve been providing recovery support.”
MCPS used to provide both recovery services and academics under one roof, specifically for students with substance abuse problems. For more than 30 years, MCPS students could attend a separate campus for recovery from addictions and substance abuse while simultaneously receiving education to graduate. The school, called Phoenix High School, closed due to low enrollment in 2013.
Now, MCPS is taking steps to reach more students. Even students or former students in the county who might not be in communication with the school system could gain access to the program. MCPS administrators turned to County departments such as Recreation and Health and Human Services, as well as recovery service providers, to refer possible participants to the upcoming program.
“Basically, anyone who works with youth, we’re letting know [about] this,” Rathbone said.
MCPS will transport students by school bus to the Family Services, Inc., facility, where students from all over the county would enroll in the Family Services, Inc. recovery program.
Rathbone said while MCPS prefers students to attend classes at County high schools; some students struggling with addictions do not stay in school because that’s where they acquired illegal substances. Therefore, another option will be available. MCPS will supply MCPS-certified teachers to teach the students at Family Services, Inc., so students not attending their own high schools have the opportunity to learn from a combination of teachers and online courses at Family Services.
MCPS will use pre-existing course material created for Interim Instructional Services for students who don’t attend school– separate from the recovery program—and which aligns with curricula used by students who do attend classes in public high schools. Some of these courses are online.
Rathbone stressed that students will be learning the class lessons from teachers, not just taking online courses.
“If we were just providing [academic] support, we wouldn’t need teachers,” Rathbone said.
Learning from MCPS-certified teachers using the MCPS curriculum will enable students to graduate and receive a high school diploma like their non-recovery classmates.