By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – The overall social emotional well-being of students and staff have been at the forefront of discussions throughout the pandemic. Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Lipton highlighted school wide programs and supports in place at the Feb. 24 Regional School Committee meeting.
“Social-emotional supports are more important now than ever,” said Lipton. “We already had a lot of programming in place and it has laid the foundation…for this unique year.”
She acknowledged the challenge of student social opportunities with their peers.
“We have been working creatively to build those relationships during the school day,” she said.
ARHS has made it a priority to create structure, predictability and a sense of normalcy in the school day. Practices to minimize student stress and feelings of isolation are being reviewed.
Lipton said teachers have played a key role in helping the school to identify at-risk students and families. Data, such as grades and attendance, are used to identify an issue before it becomes more significant.
ARHS has staff dedicated to supporting the well-being of students. This includes 8 guidance counselors, 4 school adjustment counselors, 3 tutors, nurses and a full and a part time school psychologist.
ARHS has programs and workshops to support students through the Guidance Department. The ACCESS program helps students who have been out of school for an extended period of time.
If there are more significant needs, a 504 plan through special education can also support students.
“Even if it wasn’t a pandemic, these are things we are always working on,” Lipton said. “Now everything just feels more urgent, feels harder and more important.”
Encouraging resiliency, growth mindset and self-advocacy skills are part of ongoing efforts. ARHS continues to work on substance use prevention and education and encouraging healthy habits, such as adequate sleep, exercise, diet and managing social media time.
Principal Bevan stated assessment practices are being evaluated as they acknowledge that students are in a different environment this year. The goal driven to support student social-emotional health is to ensure students are having an engaging, exciting in person school experience and not always testing.
“We are very fortunate in terms of that it is a team effort,” said Superintendent Greg Martineau. “It’s not just our guidance counselors, it’s not just our adjustment counselors, and school psychologists. It’s every teacher making connections with students.”
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