By Stan Ashbee
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Connecting students to supports and tools for positive mental health is an invaluable asset the Prairie Rose School District is offering students at all of the division’s schools this year. Through the division’s new program The Connection Works Project — a network has been created to assist students in receiving supports they might need, when they need it most.
Reagan Weeks, PRSD assistant superintendent —Learning Services, said Dr. Jody Carrington, a psychologist from Olds, presented the idea to the school division’s team to use Carrington’s work to help the division formulate a plan for student supports.
“The program is going to identify students who could use some additional support. The idea is to wrap services around them embedded within the school,” she noted.
One of the biggest concerns in school divisions, Weeks added, is the mental health of students and the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA) has identified school-based mental health, as a national priority.
“Also, across Alberta, we have recognized an increasing need to ensure we have the tools needed to address trauma and ensure we’re well prepared to welcome kids and address their social and emotional needs,” she said.
Through working with Dr. Carrington, the school division has developed The Connection Works Project. “We’ll be identifying in schools — places where we can enhance support.”
For instance, Weeks explained, if a school knows there’s a student who could benefit from some additional support, the division has Family School Liaison Workers (FSLWs) who can work with all of the adults who interact with that child and help them with their approach to the student and with their interactions.
“So, we’re ensuring the kids have both a safe place to learn and we have an optimal learning environment that’s been created through connection and relationships,” she said.
“We know that matters more than anything.”
Last year, the school division had all of its FSLWs begin the training process.
“They completed that work and they have launched the project this year,” she said.
A second part of the project contains a network of school divisions. “So the people who are doing this kind of work are able to connect with others who are engaged in critical services to give each other support and ideas of how to best meet the needs of the kids in our schools,” she added.
Across the province there are four school divisions that have adopted the program, according to Weeks.
“We have really high expectations for this work and we’re certainly anticipating seeing that it makes a positive difference in schools,” she said.