Ceres Unified School District is committed to making sure its students have access to mental health services if they’re struggling to cope and need help during the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The level of stress and anxiety has increased greatly since last year,” said Brian Murphy, coordinator of Student Support/Student Wellness for CUSD. “Kids are stuck at home all day. There’s no escape. They miss out on so much not being at school. The positive attention they get, their increased sense of self-worth, self-esteem and sense of belonging. All that is being lost because of distance learning.”
Ceres Unified hired 13 new, temporary mental health clinicians/counselors.
“We added more to what we currently have,” said Murphy. “We want students and parents to know we’re here for them.”
CUSD partnered with Stanislaus State’s Masters of Social Work (MSW) Program.
“They helped us find two interns from their program that provide services to our at-risk foster youth students,” Murphy said.
A total of eight learning loss case managers were hired through December.
“They communicate with students and families weekly,” Murphy said. “They play that big brother/big sister role. If needs come up, they’ll point them in the right direction. They’ll connect students to mental health services at their campus.”
Ceres Unified also hired three new associate counselors for the remainder of the school year.
“They’re in the final stages of becoming clinicians,” Murphy said. “They provide director counseling services to students and families.”
CUSD has remained proactive during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have focused heavily on prevention since school started in August,” he said. “That includes a lot of education awareness and outreach to all of our students, parents and staff. We’ve done a lot of virtual activities.”
Services are offered via Zoom, over the phone and in-person, Monday through Friday.
“We’re also partnering with Stanislaus County,” Murphy said. “We want to make sure students and parents have options.”
The county’s Behavioral Health & Recovery Services warm line (209-558-4600) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“They have amazing mental services as well,” he said.
Summer vacation ended for CUSD students on Aug. 12 as the 2020-21 school year opened with distance learning due to state-imposed coronavirus restrictions.
All public schools in Stanislaus County were closed from March 19 through the 2019-20 spring academic year to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The Ceres School Board unanimously approved a plan on Oct. 8 to re-open the district’s elementary campuses for partial in-person learning this November.
Secondary schools (7-12) will take longer to reopen safely, as their potential for the spread of illness is higher due to much larger student populations and intermingling of students changing classes multiple times each day according to CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel.
“We’re really looking forward to getting kids back on campus,” Murphy said.