The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is seeking a grant to help identify and tackle substance abuse issues faced by students within the district.

The district has applied for funds to initiate a program known as Counseling Counts, which would be a community-based school counseling model, Superintendent Jim Roberts said.

The program was among topics discussed by Roberts during a Wednesday luncheon meeting held by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce at the BCSC administration building.

BCSC is expected to hear whether it receives funding from the Lilly Foundation for the grant by the start of the new school year in August, Roberts said.

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If BCSC is awarded the funding, Roberts said he hopes to get the program started quickly to provide support for students who may have issues with substance abuse. If obtained, the amount would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Roberts said.

The district also hopes to partner with mental health agencies and other organizations in the community to be proactive in assisting students in need, Roberts said.

Roberts’ presentation to the audience of more than 50 people focused on highlights of his first year as superintendent and what initiatives lie ahead.

The superintendent also summarized a program overseen by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The Governor’s Work Ethic certificate program will be available to all BCSC seniors during the 2017-2018 school year, enabling graduating seniors to develop the skills employers are looking for in job candidates.

BCSC was awarded $35,000 in December to implement the program, among 18 Indiana entities to receive funding through the pilot program. Students will be evaluated by teachers on criteria such as attendance, discipline, grades and community service, Roberts said.

Meanwhile, Roberts also said the district is considering a two-way language-immersion program that could begin in pre-kindergarten starting in about a year. When Roberts was superintendent at the Batesville Community School Corp., a similar program saw about 50 students learn Mandarin and Chinese.

“We see a benefit in a variety of ways for all of our students,” he said.

Roberts highlighted 2017 legislation affecting schools across Indiana, including expansion of the On My Way pre-kindergarten program signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb. Roberts said he believes BCSC is well-positioned to receive funding due to the expansion.

Roberts also said a greater emphasis on public relations has been made through the district’s use of Facebook page to communicate with the community.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com