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BVSD school board hears update on student mental health supports

Daily Camera - 9/13/2023

Sep. 12—The Boulder Valley school board heard an update at its Tuesday meeting on student mental health supports in place this fall, from wellness centers at the high schools to social skills lessons at the elementary schools.

"We are really working to create this continuum of services," Superintendent Rob Anderson said, noting students' needs "increased tremendously" following the pandemic.

New this fall, Boulder Valley added wellness centers to all its comprehensive high schools with financial support from Impact on Education. The district also is working to enhance its response to bullying reports, which can be made using an online form, with help from a bullying prevention specialist who was hired last school year.

District staff members on Tuesday presented the support available for potential scenarios, including an elementary student frequently visiting the health room with stomach aches, a middle school student vaping and a suicidal high school student.

For the elementary student, school staff members would develop a support plan for the student that could include more breaks during class, a safe place in the classroom and meetings between the student and the school's mental health advocate.

For the middle school student, the student would meet with the school nurse to talk about vaping using the "Teen Intervene" program. After the student shares that they're sad about a friend recently talking about suicide, the student would meet with a school counselor. The counselor or mental health advocate then would refer the family to community resources for additional counseling.

For the high school student, the school would go through a suicide risk review, direct the parent to pick up and take the student to a crisis center, create a re-entry plan for the student and refer the parent to community resources to cover the cost for the needed therapeutic counseling.

When board members asked what additional resources are needed, the main request was additional counselors, nurses and mental health advocates. A mental health screener to identify students who are struggling earlier was another request.

"The more people we have, the more kids we can actually work with and support," said Stephanie Faren, Boulder Valley's health services director.

In other business, the school board heard an update on the budget that included enrollment numbers. Enrollment is coming in about as expected for K-12 students, Boulder Valley Chief Financial Officer Bill Sutter said, but was lower than expected for preschool students.

For K-12, the district has enrolled 27,203 students, about 126 more students than projected. At the elementary level, the district has enrolled 10,066 students, about 80 fewer than projected. At the secondary level, the district has enrolled 14,548 students, about 123 more than projected.

For preschool, the district has enrolled 1,018 students, about 306 fewer than expected. District officials said last-minute changes to the state's new Universal Preschool program contributed to the lower enrollment. District officials noted there's up to $4 million available in the budget to cover variability in preschool numbers, so no staffing cuts are required.


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