Students wait to be picked up at school as cars park along Pierce Memorial Drive at Saugus Middle School. (Julia Hopkins)
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SAUGUS — Town schools receive over $140,000 in grants from the federal government. It is used to enhance students’ social and emotional learning.
The total funding of $141,770 brings the town’s grant balance to over $1 million, according to Superintendent Erin McMahon. School officials have applied for competitive grants in the past few years, but have been turned down, McMahon said.
She said the grant was identified as a priority as the school district aims to help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a big deal,” McMahon said. “[We went] I know that especially after this we are all thinking about developing a sense of belonging, so especially coming out of COVID and not just mental health in general, but how difficult mental health is for our children and families. I have heard many times from We truly seek to create a powerful system that supports the mental health of all children and provides solutions specifically tailored to children with specific needs. “
Deputy Superintendent Margo Ferric told the school board, which voted to accept the grant at its December 15 meeting, that the funds would be primarily used to work with local mental health agencies to build school infrastructure and He said it would be aimed at allowing institutions to come in. Help students.
Doing so “frees up some of the work you currently do with your school coordinating counselor to really work on Tier 1 universal support,” Ferrick said.
“Partners in the mental health community support students in a way because they are skilled and especially trained in therapy. , it would really build a sustainable long-term process of working with our community,” she said.
In response to questions from school board chair Vincent Serino, Ferrick said the grant will be aimed primarily at building a system that is sustainable in schools and can support existing counselors working at Saugus. I emphasized that
“It’s all about building the infrastructure. We also have ongoing grants, so I expect it to be implemented this year and next year, but honestly, I don’t want anyone thinking about our counselors. … don’t think anyone’s job is being replaced, it’s not,” she said. “This is about supporting mental health workers by providing additional resources. It’s about actually supporting them.”
Ferick added that some of the funds will be used to hire part-time, 19-hour community mental health liaisons for each of the town’s three schools. Liaisons work together “to understand who our community is about mental health partners.”
“Once we create a framework for them to stay, they become a conduit for making sure this doesn’t become a burden for clerks and school coordination counselors. is to reduce the time school coordinating and guidance counselors have to deal with students because we need a referral process and we don’t need a community mental health liaison,” she said. “It was all written with an idea. How do we build the foundation and how do we make it sustainable?”
Serino proposed using stabilization funds from the Auxiliary Student Assistance Reserve Fund passed at a town meeting earlier this year to create space in each school for a therapist to work. This is an idea endorsed by Ferrick.
“It would be really nice to have an invisible space for the therapist, like a closet or a classroom,” she said. Hmm.”
“If all of this works out, I think it will change the way we look at and talk about our children so that we can meet their own needs,” Ferrick added.