WADSWORTH — From possible drug use to issues of mental health, officials with Wadsworth Schools said Tuesday that the needs of students outside the classroom continue to grow and the district must find ways to help students cope.
More than 20 members of the recently formed district mental health committee discussed ways to improve mental health services for students.
“I know that our school counselors met last week and really met as a team and talked through what is the role of the school counselor and where does that role really begin to morph into mental health,” Director of Student Services Joyce Walker said during the meeting.
Wadsworth High School Principal Steve Moore said that with the other responsibilities that fall on the school’s guidance team, it can be challenging to provide direct and indirect services to students.
“The issues we are dealing with at the high school level and I assume the middle school as well, when an issue happens with a student and there is an immediacy of working with that student, there needs to be a follow-up,” Moore said. “That follow-up is where we are struggling.”
High school guidance counselor Lauren Ross said the role of school counselor has changed significantly during the last decade.
Ross said that there is a general consensus among district counselors that they have not been asked to do any “inappropriate tasks,” but there is not always sufficient time and resources to dedicate to other areas.
Moore said the guidance department’s role in the area of testing is an area that there might be room for improvement.
Central Intermediate School Principal Joanne Gahan said she is seeing issues arise among the school’s fifth and sixth grade students that in previous years would have been seen at a middle-school level.
We are dealing with (issues like), do we have a student involved with drugs,” Gahan said. “Who thought that would happen at a fifth and sixth (grade) level, but it does now.”
Gahan said CIS currently has one school psychologist, Vicki Albanese, to serve both of its grade levels.
“I can confidently tell you that if Vicki walked into school every day with nothing on her calendar there wouldn’t be a second left,” Gahan said.
Gahan said Albanese utilizes “proactive counseling” to teach classroom lessons to CIS students, but sometimes those lessons have to be canceled because of more pressing matters, such as an emergency.
The Wadsworth school board voted earlier this month to make the mental health committee an official district committee. Tuesday’s meeting was only its second, and the first since being named an official committee.
“Our kids mental health needs are continuing to change and that is really what this committee is about; is determining if the structure and resources that we currently have in place are best meeting the needs of our kids, and if they are not what can we do to make sure we can meet the needs of our kids,” Assistant Superintendent Gabe Tudor said previously.
The next meeting of the mental health committee is currently scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Wadsworth High School, 625 Broad St., Wadsworth.