District Debuts Wellness Centers and After-School Hours Access

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As the Central High School District continues to focus on meeting the needs of the whole student, the rebranded school counseling and wellness centers - formerly known as the guidance office - included redesigned suites with additional offices and meeting spaces within the three high schools.

Born from Superintendent John DeTommaso’s theme for this school year, “Where Wellness Matters,” the district “will be extending our commitment to every student’s academic, social and emotional well-being by offering extended hours at our school counseling and wellness centers.”

Students and/or parents can meet with a school psychologist, school counselor or social worker regarding concerns such as academic, social and/or emotional needs or post-high school planning, as well as participate in professional development sessions for parents.

“We will continue to practice self-care and maintain a positive outlook to ensure positive outcomes for our students,” said Mepham High School Principal Eric Gomez.

“There is nothing more important to me than students that are feeling happy to be in school and fully enjoying their high school experience,” added Kennedy Principal Gerard Owenburg, who has encouraged staff to make more personal connections with students this school year.

Seven additional pupil personnel team staff members were hired as well.

“We are doing what we can to have more contact with students, as well as lowering the student-to-counselor ratio,” said Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mara Bollettieri.

The counseling and wellness centers will be open on Wednesdays from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Every Wednesday, different staff members from the district’s pupil personnel team including counselors, social workers and psychologists will be staying after school to help assist students and families with additional academic, social and emotional needs. Each building also has an onsite supervisor/assistant principal overseeing the department.  

“This is a great opportunity to meet with counselors, social workers and psychologists on a rotating basis and for our students to receive the social and emotional supports for success,” said Calhoun Principal Nicole Hollings.

Future plans include contracting with South Oaks Hospital to provide a visiting psychiatrist and psychiatric social worker several hours each week within the district to complete referrals for students. 

“For our kids who may have experienced a psychiatric crisis, a lot of parents want to follow up,” said Eric Arlin, director of special education and pupil personnel services. “However they often must navigate healthcare provider and insurance obstacles. This referral service will assist parents with insurance coverage information, as well as connect families to outside help through our school counseling and wellness centers.”

This also provides the department with the opportunity to broaden their scope of mental health services for students, including creating peer mentor programs, social skills groups and more.

"This will make a huge difference in the school atmosphere and environment,” added Arlin. “It’s all about making connections adult-to-student, as well as student-to-student. Research shows this is what creates the best outcomes for kids.”

Although students may drop in, an appointment is recommended. The district plans on rolling out this program at the middle school level in early 2019.