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Chinook places spotlight on mental health and well-being

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Mental health and well-being has taken the centre spotlight in schools around the Chinook School Division as a result of the rise of anxiety in students.

In the Chinook School Division Directions Newsletter from September 13, the division announced that all schools will require a 2021-2022 mental health and well-being plan that must cover four areas; individual supports, classroom supports, school/division supports, and family/community supports.

“Mental health and wellness are part of the provincial plan within education to kind of cope with the results of the pandemic and covid, along with learning response which are the learning gaps that may have happened over the year and a half,” said Chinook School Division Learning Superintendent Bob Vavra.

“So Chinook is putting together a plan to kind of see where our students and our mental health is currently at,” he added.

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Along side the plans, the division has also created a career guidance position, more counselor positions, and contracted occupational therapist positions available if a school requires them.

To help monitor the mental health of students the division will also be surveying Grade 10-12 students across the division on their mental health and the results will be shared with the counselors to help target key areas of student mental health and wellness. The surveys will be conducted again in June to measure growth.

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The surveys will see where students are at with their anxiety and mental health levels and their resilience to those things.

They will also be monitoring students Grade 4-12 using the Our School survey.

“We’re going to look at those because mental health can be a huge barrier to learning and we want to address those barriers early so that little ones (issues) don’t become big ones,” explained Vavra.

It’s all part of an effort that was started earlier this spring to help prepare teachers and parents with students suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues.

Since the beginning of the initiative the division has provided several mental health and well-being activities to staff including, Mental Health PD Module for all teachers, identifying students at risk, School Mental Health and Well-Being Plan, Mental Health First Aid: Training one person in each school to help identify and support Mental Health, a live presentation from Kevin Cameron, and Focus on Reconnection.

Masking mandate

As of September 16, the Chinook School Division has updated its Return to School plan to include mandatory masking for staff and students in Prekindergarten to Grade 12.

Effective on Sept. 17 Prekindergarten to Grade 12 students and staff were required to wear masks indoors in all areas of the schools. Periodic mask breaks will be provided to students and staff in schools. School visitors are required to wear masks indoors at all times and all students and staff are required to wear masks while on school buses. For outdoor activities such as recess or outdoor gym classes, there is no recommendation for students to mask, and masks will not be required for indoor extracurricular or strenuous physical education activities.

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This move came just before the province announced a new mask mandate that started on Sept. 17.

The division takes these recommendations from local physicians and their Medical Health Officer.

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