School

Each Kodiak High School counselor is seeing 100 students a week, on average, and 36% of students are currently failing one or more classes, according to Director of Special Services Kim Saunders.

At the same time, middle school counselors are reporting more instances of bullying, and an increase in stress among middle school staff and parents.

The school district is also seeing an increase in family stressors among elementary school students.

Those were among the focal points provided during an overview of the school district’s student mental health concerns, shared by Saunders during Monday’s Board of Education work session.

What follows is a breakdown of her report based on grade groupings.

 

KODIAK HIGH SCHOOL

Kodiak High School’s counseling team focuses on student engagement.

“Getting kids back to school consistently has been and continues to be an ongoing challenge,” Saunders said. “It’s certainly an area where a lot of people are putting a lot of effort into addressing.”

Academic concerns have also been a concern, especially trying to get students caught up following the pandemic.

“It becomes relatively high stakes when you start talking about class credits,” Saunders said. “There are reports of more Ds and Fs.” 

Counselors have also reported students’ concerns about post-secondary uncertainties.

“Kids are saying that they really don’t know whether they want to go to college, what it might look like or if they want to live on a campus or not,” Saunders said. “It’s hard to build answers for that when you don’t know what to say.”

High school counselors are seeing on average 100 students per counselor a week, ranging from referrals to checking on academic needs or stressors.

“It is a lot of work, and they are busy,” Saunders said. 

Based on partial data, Saunders said that 36% of high school students are failing one or more courses. By grade, that breaks down to 44 freshmen, 59 sophomores, 64 juniors and 55 seniors. 

Additionally, 8.18% of all high school students have missed 20% of the first quarter. By grade level, the breakdown involves 3.06% of the freshman class, 10% of sophomores, 8.75% of juniors and 12.14% of seniors.

“Counselors are out there trying to get these students back on track for credit post first quarter,” Saunders said.

Kodiak High School Principal Neil Hecht stressed grading data was only partial because some teachers place a zero as a placeholder until an assignment has been completed.

“If a student is out due to being remote or has COVID, that zero placeholder is there,” Hecht said. “Those numbers can fluctuate every day of the week.”

Hecht said missing grades have been an issue at least since 2016.

Saunders added that as with any bit of information, “there’s always a story behind it.”

Board member Katie Oliver said 36% of students failing at least one class was concerning. However, she said some of the high school classes are self-paced and procrastination can happen.

“I’m really interested in seeing how the progress of recovery will take place between now and later,” Oliver said. 

Board President Julie Hill said it was important to see attendance and corresponding grade levels on a regular basis.

“One of the things the board continues to be concerned about is student engagement,” Hill said. “You can’t drag your 12th grader to school easily, and I think the counselors have to follow up with students and find the reasons behind why people aren’t coming to school or have sporadic attendance or aren’t doing their school work.”

Hill added that consistent absences have financial implications for the district based on state funding and individual implications and concerns for the students.

“I appreciate the counselors and the administration for keeping up on this,” Hill said. 

Board member Duncan Fields requested a more formal presentation at an upcoming regular meeting “to perform some triage and address this problem.”

“We need a unique 2021-2022 approach implemented over the next four or five months to address this problem,” Fields said.

Superintendent Larry LeDoux said there are a lot of factors behind the data.

“Our community is under a lot of stress right now, and whatever happens in the community is part of the schools,” LeDoux said. “We aren’t separate.”

He reiterated that the data was only a snapshot because students haven’t completed assignments.

“When you look at it you have to be really careful about drawing conclusions,” LeDoux said. “It would be really great if all of our students turned in their assignments on time, but it’s clear we are seeing effects on grades and attendance because of community stress and COVID.”

LeDoux acknowledged that even if the data was complete, lower grades and higher student stress would still be evident.

“The counselors are working directly with this, but the success of the student is not directly related to the counselor, it’s related to the teacher and the relationship between student and teacher and families,” LeDoux said.

Fields said if even half the data was accurate, it would still be considered a crisis level.

“My concern is: Can we obtain additional resources to tackle this specific program in the next four  or five months?” Fields asked. “We shouldn’t wait until March when we realize we have 22 kids that can’t graduate.”

LeDoux said the district is currently trying to recruit teachers to assist students after school with homework or assignments to catch up. He also said the district is trying to hire translators to work with families and has recruited a social worker to help solve family concerns.

“Times are tough right now in certain areas, and when times are tough it comes into the schools,” LeDoux said. “Counselors are one of the first lines of defense against that.”

Hill suggested a regular update to the board as a way to keep on top of the problems.

 

KODIAK MIDDLE SCHOOL

Saunders said Kodiak Middle School’s counselors have reported more social challenges such as increased instances of bullying.

“They are really working on just getting kids back together and interacting positively,” Saunders said, adding the issue of bullying is an ongoing concern for the middle school.

“Counselors are also reporting an increased number of referrals from parents specifically,” Saunders said. “Historically, those referrals typically come from teachers, but right now the parents are calling the school asking if they can speak to their child or provide support.”

Another task the counselors have been tackling has been keeping students on track.

“Keeping students on track and re-engaging with content as students go in and come out of quarantine has really been a big focus for counselors,” Saunders said. “The current focus for counselors at the middle school has been on academic support and case management, helping individual students solve issues.”

Saunders added that counselors have been in the classrooms to address rumors and shut down concerns connected to social media. 

Saunders also reported a lot of adult stress in the middle school for staff and parents alike.

 

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS 

Saunders said that, in general, elementary school children are happy being in school, based on reports from the counseling staff. Peterson and Main Elementary’s counselors conduct 16 individual sessions a week, while North Star’s counselor holds 25 and East’s holds 20 a week.

All the counselors also conduct at least 12 classroom lessons a week on different topics.

“There are definitely some increased stressors for students and some anxiety and challenging behavior,” Saunders said. It was most noticeable in special and intensive needs students. 

“The social needs of the kids have been a priority, including group work, teaching kids how to get along with each other and problem solving,” Saunders said. “There’s also been an increase in family stressors, with students reporting traumatic events or things related to their interactions to their parents.”

The elementary school counseling team has been working on strategies that involve self-regulation and feelings, such as conscious discipline and building emotional support with other students. According to Saunders, conscious discipline is designed to give teachers the skills they need to address the emotional and social issues of children in the 21st century.

Counselors also are focusing on helping students with healthy friendships and being able to address the size of a problem.

She said East Elementary has more sessions due to the number of students with an Individual Education Plan, a plan tailored to help students with special needs. East Elementary’s counselor serves 20 students who have IEPs.

 

 

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