Summit School District aims to improve mental health support through community initiative
A new Summit School District initiative leverages community partnerships in order to better support the mental well-being of Summit County students.
The district started its monthly Summit @ Summit meetings in January, bringing together district leaders and community organizers — like Building Hope Summit County, Mountain Mentors and the Family & Intercultural Resource Center — to brainstorm ways the community can better support students’ mental health.
“We recognize that as a school district we see pretty much all of the youth in the county for 30-40 hours a week,” said Connor Catron, a secondary education social worker at the district. “We really do get our thumb on the pulse for what’s going on and where they’re at with their mental health and with their well-being in general.”
Catron said the Summit @ Summit meetings give district officials an opportunity to share what they’re seeing when it comes to student well-being and brainstorm how to address those issues. The program is especially beneficial as the district starts to see the coronavirus pandemic’s long-term impacts on student mental health.
This school year is the first time in two years that Summit students experienced a fully in-person schedule. Even then, students had to deal with quarantines and mask requirements that made school feel less than normal. As children grow into adolescents, the disruptions of the pandemic can have a major impact on student mental health, said Joanna Robbins, social emotional wellness coordinator at the district.
Some students missed out on major chunks of their education experience. For example, current ninth graders haven’t had a school year that was not impacted by COVID-19 since they were in sixth grade.
“We’re seeing that delayed maturation walking in the door,” Robbins said. “As teachers and educators, we’re really wanting to be responsive to meet kids where they’re at to support accelerated growth, that catch-up process, so that they’re not operating at a lower level.”
As a social worker, Catron said he’s seen students become increasingly more disconnected with the school system and their social structures. Connection has been especially difficult for non-English speaking students who have to meet with bilingual counselors on Zoom instead of coming in person.
Catron said the county and the state have also seen an increase in the number of youth in mental health crisis. Some students struggled with the shift back to in-person learning after becoming accustomed to virtual instruction and interaction.
“When we came back to the building, we really saw that difference in interaction impact their ability to have social interactions,” he said.
The district has hosted two Summit @ Summit meetings and plans to continue hosting on a monthly basis throughout the school year. The district and community partners have developed mission and vision statements for the initiative so far, which is to encourage collaboration between the district and community partners that leads to greater access and support for Summit families.
In May, the district will host an open house meeting, inviting community members to come learn about different mental health initiatives and resources available to them. The open house will take place from 3:30-5 p.m. on May 24 at the district’s professional development building at 150 School Road in Frisco.
“We’re really hoping that this will be an opportunity for families to learn what’s out there, get their kids involved and have a greater lens around what’s available for their kids,” Robbins said.
In the summer, the district will host one Summit @ Summit meeting in which officials will start developing a system for mental health support that they can then implement in the school year. The initiative doesn’t require any additions to the district’s budget as of yet.
Robbins said the district is always looking for more partners to participate in the Summit @ Summit initiative. Anyone who is interested can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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