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Union Public Schools adds mental health training in wake of statewide counselor shortage

Posted: 8:23 PM, Jul 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-17 14:17:55-04
Union makes changes to adapt to counselor shortage

TULSA, Okla. — Teachers at Union Public Schools are getting ready for the year to begin.

For the first time, this summer they'll go through social and emotional training to learn skills like recognizing trauma while the district works to add more counselors. At the 8th Grade Center there are only two for about 1200 students.

"The counselors try to take care of the issues before the teachers really have to deal with it in the classroom, before there's a big blowup in the classroom. If we can mitigate that ahead of time then it makes the teacher's job in the classroom that much easier," 8th Grade teacher Betty Collins said.

Collins said her students face everything from depression and anxiety to hunger and homelessness.

"Those are all the kinds of issues where counselors try to be proactive and reach out and understand who these kiddos are before it becomes crisis and they're not showing up to school for weeks and we're trying to hunt them down and figure out what's going on," she said.

Statewide the ratio is 435 to one. One Union counselor said it's improving. The high school added three counselors per grade level over the last five years, with the goal of keeping students from falling through the cracks.

"We see it all the time where that impacts just graduating high school. If students don't have support at home they're not as likely to graduate high school as a student that does," Union High School counselor Megan Kennedy said.

Staff with the district said they hope to add counselors as funding becomes available.

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