All Rockwood schools now have some version of a space, on campus, where students can go to get back on track.
"This is the Restore Room," said Eureka High teacher Denise McSwain. The Restore Room there opened in August of 2017. "It is an undefined, open-ended room to support students academically and emotionally."
"It's a place for kids who struggle," added McSwain. "If they're struggling with academics, they can come in and get help. I'm a math teacher, so we have worked with kids on their math. It's for kids that need help, and it's going very well. I work with kids in online courses who need support, in addition to kids with in-school suspension. I'm here to support and help those students get through their assignments and keep them on-task."
By design, the Restore Room does not look like a classroom. It features soft lighting, with different areas to work in. In one corner, there's a table and four chairs. But it also offers other seating – some traditional, some close to the floor. There's a couch near a fish tank that looks like it belongs in an apartment living room. Another table is located in a corner that is secluded by large, black and white book cases.
McSwain said the room is intentionally low-sensory. There are not a lot of distracting colors. One might call it calming. It is intentionally not a traditional classroom setting.
"It's designed so that students come in and get down to what they need to be doing. It features lamp lighting. The overhead lights are not turned on. We want it to be subtle, but adequate. It's more homey."
Eureka High Associate Principal Jennifer Strauser said, "We needed an arrangement that's not your traditional 1800s classroom with rows of desks. So we started a conversation with administrators, and what grew out of that is this space."
Rockwood Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Terry Harris said the Restore Rooms are an acknowledgement that some students don't do well in a traditional classroom setting.
Rockwood officials are willing to try something new.
"At the district level it is very simple," said Harris. "These are our kids. We want them to become the best they can be. All Rockwood administrators want students to be able to remain in their schools. We know suspending kids is not always the best option. Sometimes we have to do that, but we want to make sure that even when we have to suspend students, they know they are still loved. We want to make sure they are graduating, thriving, and doing well. We have bright kids in Rockwood School District. This space is part of a program to meet the social-emotional needs of all students."
Harris continued, "There is a group of students who may not do well in a traditional classroom setting, but they don't need to leave a traditional high school. So how do we create alternative spaces in the traditional high school, as opposed to just having those students leave the building?"
McSwain said just three weeks into the experiment, she had a success story.
"I worked with a student who failed Algebra I, twice," she said. "But when he came into the Restore Room, you could just tell he was ready to work. He loved to sit in the camping chair and use the laptop. He got logged in and grabbed the markers, and he'd be up at the board. He was not nervous that I was there here to help him. It's a more relaxed atmosphere."