Department of Psychiatry
Penn Behavioral Health

Education and Training

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Special Education: The Mill Creek School


For more than 30 years, Mill Creek School has been a place where young people have had the chance to experience success in school. Emotional or social concerns, difficulty adjusting to a mainstream school environment or patterns of self-defeating behavior may have created a roadblock that seriously affected the student's academic or social development. Mill Creek School is a place where adolescents learn to trust and express their feelings, make choices and handle peer pressure, and establish satisfying and meaningful relationships while getting back on track academically.

Mill Creek is a comprehensive, coeducational secondary school licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Coursework is offered from grades 7 to 12 for emotionally and socially troubled adolescents ages 12 to 20. Students attend during the day as an alternative to their home school.

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The Student Who Needs Mill Creek School

The inability to succeed in school can stem from several causes at once. A student may have a history of academic failure, poor motivation or school avoidance. He or she may struggle with disorganized thinking, anxiety, overwhelming feelings of depression or avoidant behaviors.

Some students come to us with identified learning differences and the frustration that accompanies such difficulties. These feelings often lead to patterns of avoidant behavior or self-destructive thoughts or actions such as substance abuse, difficulty with authority figures or school refusal. For a struggling adolescent, the most inviting thing about Mill Creek is its peaceful, supportive, intimate atmosphere.

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A Rich and Varied Program

The academic program at Mill Creek is unusually varied for a school its size. An enrollment of approximately 55 - 60 pupils insures an intimacy that enables staff and students to get to know each other well. The staff maintains high standards and expectations of student achievement -- no one "slides through" the program. The transcripts and diplomas issued are honored by all of the schools and post secondary programs students transition into after they leave Mill Creek.

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Services and Programs

Services at Mill Creek School include:

  • A full academic curriculum designed to challenge students ranging from average to gifted in ability including foreign languages, advanced math courses and a variety of lab sciences. In addition to the low student/teacher ratio, the curriculum is highly individualized and flexible to meet each student's needs. Students can enjoy a number of creative arts courses from improvisational music to visual arts.
  • A Learning Center provides focused assistance for those students who need greater individualized attention. In this setting, problems of learning differences and specific academic and social concerns are addressed working one-to-one with students.
  • Family counseling is designed to educate the entire family about issues such as limit setting, conflict negotiation and communication skills. It also addresses home issues such as running away, controlling anger, and dealing with anxiety and depression. This service is offered to any family wishing to make use of it.
  • Parent's Group is a forum to learn better ways of communicating with teens and to provide support and information about adolescent problems. This group is for parents only and meets one evening each month.
  • Career and transition counseling provides vocational testing, assistance with college and job searches and life skills that are necessary outside of school.
  • Group counseling helps teens learn to deal with conflicts and addresses social issues within the school and home.
  • Consulting psychiatric services offer a board-certified psychiatrist to evaluate students; complete medication consultations; assist families and students as needs arise.
  • After-school program is offered to students who choose to take advantage of individual tutoring or who wish to get back on track academically.
  • Summer program enables students to complete needed credits and continue with instruction without too long an intermission. This program also provides continuity and structure for students with learning and academic deficits.
  • Home visits , when necessary, are available to teach parents the skills needed to cope with a teen or to help a student who is having difficulty leaving home to attend school.
  • Liaison services connect Mill Creek School staff with the student's home school, as well as outside agencies and therapists.

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More Than a School

Mill Creek students are exposed to many social, recreational and cultural events. Staff and students often take advantage of the rich cultural resources offered in the area including museums, theaters, parks and historical sites. This allows students to experience the things they are studying. Other activities may include bowling, skating, hiking, picnicking, bicycling and parties.

Graduation is the most moving and meaningful single experience at the school. To see the faces of students who have achieved what many of them thought impossible and whose lives have become filled with challenges and plans rather than pessimism and conflict, brings real joy to everyone.

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A Specially Trained Staff

Working with challenging students requires exceptional skills. Mill Creek School teachers are educators, as well as perceptive and sensitive individuals. They bring interest, humor and sensitivity to what they do, as well as an ability to relate warmly to students. Mill Creek teachers have completed training in special education, as well as certification to teach one or more secondary subjects.

A key role of each teacher is to serve as the advisor or case manager to a small group of students. Responsibilities include scheduling, providing support, interventions, communicating with parents, school districts and therapists, arranging for planning meetings or crisis interventions, and being the adult most available to and most informed about the student in the school. Faculty meetings are held regularly to review the progress of each student, to modify planning and to insure that the student's individual needs are being served.

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How to Apply

Admission to the program at Mill Creek begins with a referral from a school district or other public agency, a mental health professional or a family member. All of the relevant educational and clinical records are submitted to an admissions committee.

The next step is an interview with the prospective student and his or her family. The interview is designed to determine if the program is compatible with the applicant's needs and the likelihood of success for the student. If the Mill Creek staff, the student and family agree that this may be an appropriate placement, the student is invited in for a two-day visit before a final decision is made.

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Tuition Fees

Tuition for most students is paid through reimbursement by the school district in which they reside. Reimbursement eligibility is reviewed during pre-admission to assure that adequate funding is available. To obtain information about current fees and reimbursements, contact the school's office at (215) 471-4900, x100 or send a fax to (215) 471-9639.

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