Mental health programs give critical support to students and staff alike

October BRSD board meeting highlights

Battle River School Division logo

“A mental health crisis is considered to be one of the most significant fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Positive mental health strategies and building resilience among the students and staff of schools is paramount to successfully coping with today’s realities.“ That’s the message delivered to the BRSD Board of Trustees meeting on October 22, by the Mental Health Capacity Building Program Coordinator Andrea Dyck.

Board members heard how the highly skilled staff of the MHCB program do pro-active work to support students, identify ways to stop them from falling through the cracks and use a growth mindset to encourage students to be resilient and move forward with their learning.

“It may seem like we’re offering fun programs—and we are,” says Ms. Dyck, “but there is a lot more to it than that.”

Even before the pandemic, BRSD staff were aware that student’s mental health challenges were growing. Ms. Dyck shared statistics about the programs and services her team provided between September 2019 and March 2020, such as the 725 sessions for BRSD students, teachers, and families. More statistics are included on Page 3 of this update.

Ms. Dyck also reminded Board members that, despite the growing needs, mental health programming is under consideration for funding cuts. The Board voted to write a letter of support for maintaining MHCB program funding in schools across Alberta. BRSD families are also reminded that the provincial budget input process is open for public input until December 4. Everyone can share their thoughts.

Federal funding

Battle River School Division was allocated just over $2 million from the federal government this fall, as part of its plan to support schools during the pandemic.

The first $1 million has been received, with the second installment due in January. BRSD has used these funds to pay for teachers who were hired to support the At-Home Learning program (over and above the existing staff who took on new roles).

The school division has also allocated extra Custodial, Educational Assistant and Bus Driver time to manage the extra cleaning duties that have been added this fall. To date an additional $360,000 has been spent for this purpose. We know that if these new protocols carry on for the whole school year we will not have enough funds to cover the extra expenses.

Nearing the end of the first quarter

This year about 720 BRSD students began the school year learning at home. BRSD schools transitioned to a ‘quarter system’ for this school year, which enables students to switch from at-home to in-person learning at four different times (and vice versa). The first quarter of the school year will end on November 10. Any families who are considering switching back to school, or from in-school to at-home programming, must let their home school know their plans before Friday, November 6.

Enrollment decline

Like many Alberta school divisions, BRSD is experiencing a drop in student numbers this fall. About 200 students have not yet returned to school, either through the at-home, in-person, on-line or alternative programs.

– Source: Battle River School Division October board meeting highlights

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