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Middletown City Schools uses COVID relief for school counselors

Rosa Parks Elementary
Posted at 12:25 AM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 10:18:41-05

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — For the first time ever, Middletown City Schools has dedicated counselors at every one of its buildings.

Federal coronavirus relief money allowed the district to afford placing counselors in every grade school, meaning places like Rosa Parks Elementary are taking big steps to support student mental health.

The historic number of changes impacting schools and students everywhere since the onset of the coronavirus in March 2020 have been uniquely challenging and even more so for younger children, said Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Elizabeth Beadle.

“Last (school) year our schools spent a quarter in a remote learning setting, two quarters in a hybrid (class schedule) setting and the last quarter in the classroom. It was a big year of change and uncertainty,” Beadle said.

Previous to this school year, the 6,300-student’s eight elementary schools shared counselors who worked multiple buildings each school day.

“Having a school counselor focus on one building only is a huge plus for our students, especially given the past year plus," Beadle said. "I think many of us can agree mental health and social-emotional learning is so important, especially during this pandemic.”

Henry Reid is one of the professionals helping students learn to identify and process emotions.

"The pandemic definitely left our students needing to build on a lot of skills," Reid said. "I ultimately get to support them in a lot of various ways in order to make sure that they can get through the school day and make it through the school year — whatever that success looks like for them, figuring that out and helping support them along the way."

Hiring new counselors was made possible by a federal COVID-19 relief funding program made available to schools nationwide. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Grant Program, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, is paying for the additional counselors.

"Getting them the support they need emotionally and mentally is really big, especially as they're coming back from a pandemic," Reid said. "Like we've been talking about, the world's been changing. It's been moving pretty fast."

Earlier this year, Middletown officials announced the additional federal money is also helping the district avoid some $2.5 million in previously planned school budget cuts. And thanks to the ESSER funds, Middletown officials reported last month the city schools were financially in “great shape,” with no need to ask residents for an operating tax hike for at least five more years.