Heading off to a healthy start: Stonington welcomes return of students at new health center | Stonington

Stonington — Connecting with the community and building strong family relationships have always been critical to the success of education at Stonington. In recent years, we have placed more emphasis on providing mental health services to students and their families.

With new behavioral and medical centers set to open at Stonington High School and West Vine Street School on first day of school Tuesday, Superintendent Mary Ann Butler said she is committed to the mental health and well-being of students and to the well-being of all. Said it would be accessible again. It remains a priority in 2023-2024.

Officials say the new center will not only help provide better, more direct local options, but it will also keep students in the classroom and help both school districts and schools nationwide since the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope that it will also help address the growing attendance problem plaguing -19 Pandemic.

“This will be a big factor in making sure students don’t miss their time in the classroom,” Butler said. “For example, in the past, to deal with something like strep throat, you had to send the student home and make an appointment with the doctor. can receive treatment for

Last year, the district entered into a partnership with Child and Family Services to provide specialist therapists in behavioral health components to expand existing services within the district. Stonington Middle School already has an established behavioral health partnership that continues to operate on the ground after the two middle schools have merged.

The district also had a partnership with Pawcatuck Middle School prior to the merger.

Butler and Stonington High School principal Alicia Daw said that in some cases, the change in availability could result in up to three additional days of class time. This could be a tipping point for school districts that have spent the past year grappling with a steep rise in absenteeism.

Prior to the pandemic, average student absenteeism and the number of students meeting the definition of “chronic absenteeism” began to rise from a low of 5%. But as students returned to classrooms after distance learning due to the pandemic, that number soared, finishing the previous school year at a rate of 14% at Mystic Middle School and approaching 15% at Stonington High School.

Doe said this will not only keep students in the classroom, but will play an important role in providing school districts with services that meet the heightened needs revealed by the pandemic.

“Students no longer have to stay home for some illnesses, other families no longer have to take students out of school for therapy, and it’s much easier for families to find services they can rely on. will be,” she said.

Staff at West Vine Street School, which the district opens Tuesday as the Connecticut Schools Association’s Elementary School of the Year, said last week that the health center is one of several ways the school is trying to build a deeper connection with the school. He said it was nothing more than Community/community.

For the first time this year, all after-school and after-school activities in the school district will be free to all students, thanks to the State Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund (ESSER) grant. The $242,000 funding was raised with the direction and assistance of financial director her Alisha Stripling.

The grant awarded to Stonington is one of 23 grants awarded to districts in the state, the second highest total for all projects and the highest overall. It was just $500 short. Butler and Stripling said the program would operate independently of local taxpayer funds and would not be required to use funds from the school’s annual operating budget.

“The program ran for several months at the end of last year’s academic year, and quite a few students and families took advantage of the opportunity,” Butler said. “We are continuing to apply for additional grants and hope to get enough funding to continue for probably another couple of years.”

Grants and community partnerships have also helped expand opportunities in high schools, and a partnership with the Homebuilders Association is now in its second year, Doe said. The program was so popular in its first year that the course filled up quickly, forcing many students to decline.

“HBI is a very popular class and we are excited to expand the opportunities in year two,” said Dawe. “Last year students partnered with Mystic Seaport and were able to work in the community.

new start and end time

Another new aspect for the 2023-24 school year is the addition of 15 minutes of classroom teaching time.

Butler said the additional teaching hours were the result of new teacher contracts and expanded daytime hours. He said the changes would include extending school days and changing both start and end times to minimize schedule impact.

“I tried to split it as evenly as possible, like 5 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon, to prevent a significant impact on sleep and to help both students and families stick to their schedules and maintain routines,” says Butler. said Mr. .

Under the new schedule, Stonington High School will begin at 7:25am and dismiss at 2:10pm. Half day ends at 10:45am. Stonington Middle begins at 8:05am and ends at 2:50pm. Half-day tours end at 11:25. West Vine Street Elementary School and Deans Mill Elementary School begin at 8:45am and leave at 3:30pm or 12:10am for half-days.

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