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Student supports are topic for board

Counselors, principals provide update

The Webster City school board heard a report Monday night about the high school student supports that have been put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board met in regular session via the Zoom teleconferencing platform Monday night.

“We want to make sure that students have the supports they need and make sure that parents are aware of what supports are available,” said Dr. Mandy Ross, superintendent.

Principal Dan Johnson said that with the hybrid learning model at the high school, 25 minutes have been built into the school day for the multi tiered system of support.

“Since the beginning of the school year, we’ve imbedded 25 extra minutes into basically into block five,” Johnson said. “We’ve focused on two things — both the academic side and the social/emotional side.”

Counselors Lauren Smith and Marta Paukert told the board that they are providing students with mood trackers.

“We gave the students that in a paper form so they could use that over and over again,” said Paukert. “The next week we looked at stress triggers and how they react to them and then the effects to that reaction.”

She also said the students have been learning about anxiety, defining what it is and tools they can use to relax in stressful situations or when anxiety is triggered.

“This week we’re talking about self-talk — getting rid of negative self-talk and putting in positive talk instead, using positive affirmations and teaching them how to look at their triggers and then change the situation,” Paukert said. She added that the students will also be working on mindfulness and resiliency.

Future units will likely address time management and how to find more time during the day, along with high school success skills.

“We’re really trying to give the students tools and things they can use to help themselves recognize what is happening with them and ways they can solve some of those smaller anxiety issues, and realizing which issues may require outside support or the next step,” she said.

Smith said they are working on the counseling Google Classroom pages and will continue to throughout the year.

“We’ve made a Google Classroom page for each grade level and are posting grade specific things as well as posting the same things to everyone,” she said. The goal for the counseling Google Classroom is to create a connection between school and home. So students and parents will be able to access these pages.”

Smith said they wanted to be sure to have easily accessible information in case students need support on a day they are not at school. All of the social/emotional lessons are being posted to the pages, she added. The pages also will have general mental health supports and contact information for community resources.

She added that partnerships are continuing this year with Berryhill Mental Health Treatment and YSS of Hamilton County. Both organizations utilize virtual services to meet with students. Talks are also planned with Central Iowa Community Services to learn about potential services available there.

Paukert said the counselors are also working to identify students who need support. Some walk into their office and ask for help. Other referrals come from teachers and parents, she said. The students can also fill out an exit ticket, included with lessons that lets the counselors know they may need more support.

Associate Principal Pat Farley addressed the academic supports provided at the high school.

“The multi tier systems of support has been an initiative taken on by many districts and we really wanted to get that going before COVID hit,” he said.

“Carved into the schedule are 25 minutes every day so we can provide intervention time for those kids who need it,” Farley said. Using a scheduling software, teachers will be able to draft students to bring them to the classroom for intervention time to get the help that they need, he said.

That software should be active later this week, according to Johnson.

“We’re actually putting the pieces in place right now. Beginning this coming Friday, the staff can actually move the students during intervention time,” Johnson said.

A student support team also works to identify students with multiple failing or low grades.

“We identify them, we talk about the relationships we’ve had with them, the classes they are doing well in and those the are not,” Farley said. He explained that the team has been comprised of himself, the guidance counselors, the juvenile court liaison and representatives of Hamilton High. The team then implements individualized initiatives to help the student.

“This is what we’re doing daily if not weekly to try to identify those kids that are slipping through the cracks and to give them additional support,” Farley said.

Johnson said the high school is looking into providing a study table program for students on remote learning days. He said Fuller Hall had agreed to provide space for tables so students could gather with supervision and academic support. Supervision might be provided by a paraeducator or an available teacher.

Board Member Rich Stroner said it was possible that space could be available at the American Legion Building on Second Street and invited Johnson to look at the space to see if that would be feasible.

The board also discussed the possibility of bringing in a social worker for the district. Ross said she would continue to look into the matter.

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