Summit School District aims to improve mental health supports through community initiative
A new Summit School District initiative is leveraging community partnerships to better support the mental wellness of students in Summit County.
The district began its monthly [email protected] 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 student mental health.
“We recognize that as a school district, we see just about every young person in the county for 30 to 40 hours a week,” said Connor Catron, a secondary education social worker for the district. “We’re really taking the pulse of what’s going on and where they’re at with their mental health and with their overall well-being.”
Catron said [email protected] meetings give district leaders an opportunity to share what they see in student well-being and think about how to address those issues. The program is particularly beneficial as the district begins to see the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on student mental health.
This school year is the first time in two years that Summit students have enjoyed an all-in-person schedule. Even then, students faced quarantines and mask requirements that made the school feel less than normal. As children grow into teenagers, the disruptions of the pandemic can have a major impact on students’ mental health, said Joanna Robbins, district social-emotional wellness coordinator.
Some students missed a large part of their school experience. For example, current ninth graders haven’t had a school year that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19 since they were in sixth grade.
“We see this delayed maturation walking in the door,” Robbins said. “As teachers and educators, we really want to be responsive to meeting children where they are to support accelerated growth, this catch-up process, so they’re not functioning at a lower level.”
As a social worker, Catron said she has seen students become increasingly disconnected from the school system and their social structures. Connecting has been particularly 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 state have also seen an increase in young people in mental health crisis. Some students found it difficult to return to in-person learning after becoming accustomed to virtual teaching and interaction.
“When we came back into the building, we really saw that the difference in interaction had an impact on their ability to have social interactions,” he said.
The district has held two [email protected] meetings and plans to continue to hold monthly meetings throughout the school year. So far, district and community partners have developed mission and vision statements for the initiative, which is to encourage collaboration among district and community partners, leading to better access and better support for Summit families.
In May, the district will host an open house, inviting community members to come and learn about the different mental health initiatives and resources available to them. The open house will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on May 24 at the District Professional Development Building at 150 School Road in Frisco.
“We really hope this will be an opportunity for families to learn what’s out there, engage their kids, and get a better view of what’s available for their kids,” Robbins said.
In the summer, the district will host a Summit @ Summit meeting where leaders will begin to develop a mental health support system that they can then implement during the school year. The initiative does not yet require additions to the district budget.