WADSWORTH — As district officials work to have more mental health resources available to students, next year will bring additional school counselors, streamlined job responsibilities for high school counselors and an increased involvement with community agencies.
Superintendent Andrew Hill said board members made the recommendations after reviewing documents prepared by the district’s Mental Health Committee.
Hill said Tuesday the documents outlined “gap analysis, of where we are not doing some things that we would like to be able to do in regards to mental health and social and emotional needs of kids.”
The district then took a look at those gaps and make some changes to address the needs, he said.
One of the most noticeable of the adjustments is hiring an additional school counselor at both the elementary and intermediate levels.
According to district data, adding staff will lower the student-to-counselor ratio at Central Intermediate School from the current model of 667 students per counselor to 341 students per counselor.
“We had one counselor operating there for 600, 700 kids, so adding a second one there will definitely help,” Hill said.
At the elementary level, the interactions also will change from a current ratio of 619 students to one counselor to an estimated 439 students to one counselor.
“It is not as large as a reduction because we are adding one (position) to two and a half (established positions), but it is still a pretty significant decrease,” Hill said.
Hill said there are gaps at those levels because the district simply does not have enough school counselors.
At the high school level, it was decided to shift some responsibilities, such as organizing student testing and coordinating individual learning plans, away from counselors to other employees.
“We felt like we could pull those pieces back, assign those somewhere else and then take a step back and see how those gaps identified at the high school level are able to be met when counselors don’t have those additional responsibilities,” Hill said.
The board made a recommendation to implement a substitute administrator position to provide support with district testing. The substitute administrator rate of pay is recommended to be $262 per day, with an estimated yearly total cost to the district of about $13,100.
Board President and Mental Health Committee member Linda Kramer said the role played by a school counselor varies according to grade level.
“It is a completely different situation at the high school than it is for the counselors at any of the other schools because they deal with graduation and college stuff,” Kramer said.
Kramer said the district’s counseling staff agrees with the ideas proposed by the board.
“We proposed it to them at our last mental health meeting and we told them what was going to happen and we didn’t get any opposition,” she said Wednesday. “All you can do is try it and see.”
Wadsworth Middle School counselors also will be given an additional hour of clerical work assistance each school day.
“It is more providing assistance to the two school counselors that are there and helping with scheduling and other clerical-related type items,” Hill said.
The district also will expand its involvement with mental health organizations in the community to provide an even broader range of available resources and services to students.
Hill said it was great to have community organizations reaching out to become involved in the district’s mental health efforts.
Hill and Kramer agree that time will tell district officials how effective the changes for the 2019-20 school year will be.
Hill said the Mental Health Committee will next meet in October to review the changes.
“Part of our next step is to meet again at the end of October, at the end of the first nine weeks, to really get a good idea and understanding in terms of how these changes have made an impact one way or another,” he said.