Wellness center in SSSD
making a difference
By Lloyd Call
MANTI—The South Sanpete School District board learned of the positive impact the district’s wellness centers are having on the mental health of students.
Jasmine Heywood, the district’s social and emotional learning coordinator, said, “Our objective with these wellness centers is to teach students how to regulate their own emotions internally. We want students to learn that their emotions can be intense, and when they are experiencing anger, frustration, depression, or other strong emotions, they can learn to control them before they escalate.”
“For example, a student may have an emotional response that causes anxiety,” she said. “Up to this point, they call their parents to come get them, and leave school. Rather than that, we want students to have a safe place where they can safely go to learn how to handle their emotions and not have to leave school, but return to class. This has good benefits socially because leaving school is seen as a failure.”
Each school reported on the status of their centers; and Heywood noted that schools are trying to make sure students who use the centers don’t feel like they are “problem students.” The centers are designed to be a positive experience where students learn to handle their emotions and get support.
An example was given that in the Sevier School District nine students had committed suicide. Since implementation of their wellness centers, they have not had a single suicide. Of course, that is not the sole reason for the improvement, but it appears to be a strong contributing factor.
The challenge is that the district’s schools are all at different points in implementation. Some centers are set up and running well, while others are still looking for a room to dedicate to be a wellness center.
For example, at the Manti Elementary School, facilitator Jessica Henrie reports that students ask to use the wellness room. Upon arrival, they indicate where they are emotionally. Most usually stay about 10 minutes, and they also report on their emotional state when they leave. While there, the facilitator will talk to them and help them process, if they want, or choose a calming activity from the available resources. From Sept. 2020 to Nov. 25, 2020, 388 students have asked to use the wellness room.
Concerning COVID, a memo was sent from the district to all principals from the Central Utah Health Department, which has been studying school quarantined cases. The data shows that less than 0.5 percent (1 in 200) of school quarantines has become positive COVID-19 cases.
As a result, the procedures for quarantine for in-school exposures have changed. As of Dec. 8, students will no longer be required to be quarantined from in-school exposures in the Central Utah Health District, as long as it can be verified that proper mask-wearing has been observed and the individual who was exposed is not symptomatic.
This will stop the 7-day test and return process as well. The health department will continue to contact trace and verify proper face mask-wearing in each instance. Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 will continue to be quarantined from school.
With these new guidelines, it is more important than ever that all individuals wear their masks properly while at school. Parents and students should continue to watch for and avoid coming to school with any symptom(s) such as fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, body aches and pains, or loss of taste or smell, even if symptoms are mild.
The board also received specific guidelines for each winter sport with COVID guidelines. Superintendent Ralph Squire gave an example how important the guidelines are. He said that a Manti girls’ basketball game against Canyon View had been cancelled because of a guideline violation. Only that game was cancelled, and the girls resumed their regular games, but it illustrates that the health department is monitoring games and takes violations very seriously.
Squire also mentioned that guidelines are constantly changing with relation to COVID-19 risk prevention. He also said that teachers are reporting that some students are struggling to recover their reading skills that were influenced by school closures that began in March.
Ephraim City has notified the district that they are giving $40,000 of CARES money to Manti High School. The school will receive audio enhancement systems for classrooms, water bottle filler stations, cleaning machines and other prevention tools related to COVID risk prevention.
Finally, the district reviewed grants the district is currently benefitting from. “We get $5 million worth of grants each year. Compared to our $40 million total budget, that’s a big deal,” Squire said.
The next school board meeting will be Jan. 13, 2021, if needed.