A revamped program to teach and reinforce good behavior in students is being rolled out at Roy A. Hunt Elementary School in New Kensington-Arnold.
As part of the program’s debut on Monday, the school’s 620 students will be able to cheer on teachers and staff in volleyball games, first with third and fourth graders, then with fifth and sixth graders.
The program, officially known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, has been around in one form or another for more than eight years, said Dana Fularz, the district’s federal programs liaison. A team of teachers created it at HD Berkey Elementary School, also in Arnold, when it housed fourth and fifth graders before a neighborhood reconfiguration.
“We’re making some changes to it to make it better,” she said.
The idea, however, is the same, with an emphasis on prevention, not punishment.
“It’s a nationally recognized model,” Fularz said. “It aims to create a positive culture, increase school learning time and foster connectivity within the school community. We teach them the character traits and behaviors expected for a positive and safe learning environment.
Using the district’s Valley Vikings mascot, the program will focus on three main areas: keeping students safe, respectful and responsible.
“We expect them to act this way everywhere – the classroom, the hallway, the restrooms, the cafeteria and the buses,” she said. “We want them to show they are Vikings at all times.”
This could be demonstrated by behaviors such as students using voices inside the cafeteria and staying in their seats on the bus.
“It sounds like very simple things, but it’s something that needs to be taught,” Fularz said. “We have to teach them that this is what we expect.”
The program hasn’t been held in Hunt since the 2017-18 school year, said school counselor Devon Fiore, who had worked in the district for a decade before going on leave in 2018. He was hired in October.
“With the kids being away and home for so long, they haven’t had much social interaction. They weren’t using their social skills and things like that every day,” Fiore said. “My hope and our hope is that this program will help identify those foundational skills and behavioral skills not only in schools, but (they) will transition into the community and help students grow.”
By demonstrating good behavior, students can earn tickets which they can redeem for prizes and other rewards.
“I try to bring everything back to growth. What may work for one student may not work for another student,” Fiore said. “As long as that student is learning something and growing personally for them, there is an upside to that.
“Our students, they’re nice and they want to earn awards, and I think the program will help lead them in that direction.”
Program information will be sent home to parents.
In future school years, students will be introduced or recalled to the program at the start of the school year, Fularz said.