WEISER, Idaho (STPNS) -- A change in funding schedules by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare this year forced Weiser and neighboring school districts to restructure their cooperative school for emotionally disabled students in Payette.

The school is operated by Northwest Children's Home under contract with the Weiser, Payette, Emmett, New Plymouth, and Fruitland school districts. It is set up to serve as many as 20 students whose emotional health prevents them from attending regular school. The current enrollment is 16.

Weiser district Academic Ach-ievement Director Wil Overgaard said the program's total budget is approximately $250,000, roughly half of which is federal government Title Six B funds, which are distributed by the Children's Mental Health section of Idaho Health and Welfare. The rest is provided by the districts from their own general funds.

Originally, the federal money was allocated only to school districts operating a program for emotionally disabled students, Overgaard said. This year, however, the funding formula was changed and in the next academic year the money will be divided evenly among all school districts in Idaho. As a result, the money available to the six-district program in Payette will be reduced by $42,000.

Overgaard told Weiser trustees at their February meeting that the school districts are negotiating with Northwest Children's Home in an attempt to reduce the cost by modifying the program. Currently, one middle school teacher, one high school teacher, a counselor, an administrative assistant, and teachers' aides are employed in the program.

Weiser has had four students in the program this year, Overgaard said. They are bused to and from the Payette campus by the school district. The length of time students spend in the program varies, he said, depending on how long it takes them to recover sufficiently to return to the regular classroom. Some are there a matter of weeks, some spend as much as a full academic year.