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HCCSC increases focus on mental, social health

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) has more mental health needs than it does for asthma and allergies combined, according to the corporation nurse’s annual review.

At least 700 students, 14 percent, have ADHD or an attention disorder, 521 students, 10 percent, deal with anxiety and 287 students, 5 percent, suffer from depression, according to statistics collected when students opt to disclose their health needs during registration.

Corporation Nurse Meg Friesen, who’s been with HCCSC for two years in her current role and has a specialty in psychiatric nursing, told the board about policies she’s thinking about implementing to ensure each student is healthy.

“A lot of times when you think about the corporation nurse, a lot of people think about the physical needs of our students, but I’m very invested in the whole child and what that means about the mental, physical and social wellbeing,” she said.

Since she began, Friesen has implemented emergency action plans for each child with life-saving medications. She has also increased training and education at all levels of schooling, including topics like vaping, growth and development and dental health.

Friesen said there is a gap in the dental health care provided to the community, so she shared how she plans to address the shortfall.

“There’s not a lot of dental providers for Medicaid, especially students, so our goal is to have all six elementary schools host a mobile dental clinic with all schools hosting by the following year.”

Although only fifth-twelfth grade teachers are required to be certified in QPR training, a national evidence-based protocol to identify and prevent suicide, Friesen said all teachers in HCCSC are certified.

She is working on getting board approval to carry nalaxone, an antidote for opioid overdoses, and albuterol, an inhalant designed to treat asthma-related illnesses, at all schools. She’s also taken steps to get 100 percent of students to reach immunization compliance.

In other business, the board heard amendments for the 2019-20 school year calendar, which was previously approved. The amendments reflect the proposed 2020-21 and 2021-22 calendars, which will be approved at an upcoming board meeting.

One of the main changes from past calendars included adding the eLearning “flex days” into the official calendar, since calendar committee chairperson and Flint Springs Elementary School principal Aimee Lundsford said they were well received.

“Those went really well and provided some really great district professional development for our teachers and staff,” she said.

The second change reflected the removal of built in non-conference early release days since eLearning flex days provide better opportunities for professional development, says Lundsford.

Another change included changing a inclement weather makeup day from the first week of February to fall on Presidents Day each year.

The proposed change to make spring break six days long by making the Friday before break an official day off received the most opposition.

Board member Matt Melcher was concerned that the change would not fix the problem of absences, since he argued parents may begin taking Thursday off instead. Board member Brian Warpup said he wanted to see spring break moved closer to winter break, since he argued 12 weeks is a long time to go through winter without a built-in break.

The board unanimously approved the amendments to the 2019-20 calendar, and the other calendars will receive a vote at the next board meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Scott Bumgardner recommended the board move forward with their plans to upgrade the sound systems in the gymnasium and auditorium, costing $99,929 and $160,051 respectively.

Bumgardner said both projects should be completed by around the end of summer, with a possible exception for the gym.

“The gymnasium may go into the first of the year just because we are going to keep it open as long as possible because we’re doing the fieldhouse flooring at the beginning of June,” he said.

The board also unanimously approved replacing carpet and flooring at Crestview, Flint Springs and Lincoln schools, something Bumgardner said was a “desperate” need.

The board also approved to spend $32,824 on band equipment after Bumgardner said the program has expanded in recent years.

Band director Mike Petek said only 18 freshmen were in band when the board decided to budget $10,000 annually, and he said they’ve fallen behind since the program’s expanded to 51 freshmen just in the following year.

“Just to share with you and the community, this isn’t frivolous spending. The set of timpani that we just replaced last year retails for $21,000. Due to a competitive bidding process – people wanting our business – we were able to get that down to round $11,000. So we are doing a good job of trying to manage our dollars,” he said.

The board also accepted the resignations of HNHS Principal Russ Degits and Horace Mann Elementary School Principal Mark Dubois.

In other news, the board donated two properties on Lindley Street to Pathfinder Services to build a fully-accessible group home for aging in place.