Mental health supports critical for student success

As Fayetteville-Manlius officials prepare for what a return to in-person education may look like in the fall, they recognize that directing resources to the district’s support of student mental health and social-emotional learning is going to be paramount.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the district had already planned to propose a budget that enhanced the district’s strategic plan priority area of creating and maintaining a positive school environment.

With the loss of in-person education for the last three months of the 2019-20 school year and social distancing practices that have disrupted students’ everyday lives, the district recognizes that mental health support for students during the 2020-21 school year will be even more important than anticipated.

Because of this, the district is proposing to maintain its staffing related to psychologists, counselors and home-school liaisons and offer professional development for teachers, such as guest speakers, book studies and inservice courses, on understanding and supporting student mental health and social-emotional learning.

The district is also proposing to enhance in 2020-21 several student-focused programs already in place that have shown success, such as its therapy dog program and the Positivity Project, which helps foster positive student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships and a school-wide culture of other people matter.

The district also plans to continue implementing in kindergarten through grades 2, and with selected grade 5 students, the Second Step Social-Emotional Learning curriculum, which is a research-based program that develops students’ social and emotional skills.

“We know strong mental health is critical for students’ academic success, and we also recognize that students need to develop coping skills to navigate the challenges in their everyday lives, which due to this current public health crisis have become increasingly more complex,” said Mary Coughlin, F-M’s assistant superintendent for instruction.