More depressed, suicidal kids, School District 43 trustees told

More counsellors and learning specialist teachers are needed for schools, SD43 trustees are being told. - fiLE
More counsellors and learning specialist teachers are needed for schools, SD43 trustees are being told.
— image credit: fiLE

The call for more school librarians as well as technology education, music, drama, art and home ec. teachers — plus more school counsellors to deal with vulnerable children — has shed light on issues facing Tri-City public schools.

On Tuesday, School District 43 counsellors and learning specialist teachers called on the board of education to add more staff in the 2012/2013 budget.

Laurelei Primeau from Pitt River middle school told trustees the erosion in the number of learning specialist teachers in the district has resulted in fewer learning opportunities for children, especially at middle schools.

"Courses are being removed based on the availability of current staff and not on the education needs of students," she said.

Primeau said learning specialist teachers provide the kind of hands-on skills and artistic knowledge that children thrive on and will use for the rest of their lives.

Vulnerable students — including kids in kindergarten — also need more attention, SD43 counsellors say.

Mike Pledge, a student services co-ordinator, said counsellors are dealing with more students with anxiety disorders and mental health issues, and their caseloads are growing. Pointing to the high number of referrals to the Tri-Cities youth crisis response team — 260 children with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues in one year — Pledge said it's counsellors who deal with these kids first.

"These are children who are attending our schools every day," Pledge said.

He told trustees that online resource and referral doesn't replace human connections made by counsellors, and noted increasing academic and career pressures are the causes of more stress and anxiety among students.

"It's a more complicated life for adults and kids," Pledge said.

Rissa Wilson said more counsellors are also needed at the elementary school level to deal with increasing numbers of kindergarten children identified with behaviour challenges. She said the combination of the longer day and the district's desire to intervene early means counsellors are being asked to work with more children and families.

Issues such as kids' separation anxiety — and concerns of parents leaving their kids in school for a longer day — are among the issues counsellors have to deal with.

"It's trying to work with those parents and the teachers as well," Rissa said, adding that she has been surprised by the number of kindergarten children dealing with challenges as well as the high number of challenges they face.


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