JAY — Thursday, Jan. 14, Regional School Unit 73 Directors were given a mental health needs assessment for each school in the district. More damage being done to iPad cases now that students are taking them home for days students work remotely was also discussed.

Spruce Mountain High School Guidance Counselor Chris Beaudion said the social worker at each building created the assessment, what is being seen daily in the schools.

“Our chief job is to help students with mental health, emotional, social and academic success,” he said.

While a lot of things have gotten worse since the pandemic, a lot of positive things are going on, Beaudion noted.

“Athletics, wearing masks, following rules, the whole community is really working hard to make things happen,” he said. “We want to be able to provide adequate mental health to our staff and students.”

Increased stress directly related to the pandemic, increased responsibilities for students, loss of memory makers and personal academic performance were some items mentioned. Absenteeism, students’ and parents’ lack of computer and technological skills, students’ disconnection from their peers, difficulty engaging fully remote students, lower work completion and higher drop-out rates as well as the need for more staff were other concerns given.

Things being done to help include community members dropping off food, ongoing crisis interventions for students, referrals to community mental health providers, reporting abuse and truancy to the Department of Health and Human Services, frequent outreach to parents, an adjustment to the high school’s grading system and teachers checking on more with their students.

“Some day, we’ll be out of this and there’ll be better days ahead,” Beaudion said. “We don’t give up.”

Despite all the positive things going on, there are some real concerns, director Patrick Milligan said.

“Time, resources are limited,” he said. ‘Is there anything we as a board can do to help facilitate?”

“One thing about this community, it’s always been amazing, comes together in a time of crisis,” Beaudion said. “Maybe the thing to do is to get the word out, everybody do their little bit. We’re doing all we can here.”

Superintendent Scott Albert said another person from Care and Comfort may soon be coming on board to work with the district.

“I know we have lots of people if they knew, would love to help,” director Elaine Fitzgerald said.

One thing all the kids noted was they’re cared for by their team and their teachers, high school social worker Kristy Labonte said.

In other business, the board voted to switch to the Chrome book insurance program once the two-year contract with AppleCare for the district’s iPads expires. The iPads are used by the district’s younger students.

“We’re finding we’re having a lot of iPad damage because they’re going home,” Curriculum Coordinator and Technology Director Chris Hollingsworth said. It ranges from minor to more severe, he added.

A $50 deductible is assessed every time an iPad is sent to Apple for repairs, he said. That wasn’t understood when the iPads were purchased and the AppleCare contract agreed on, he added.

Tacking the cost on for parents, having the district cover the repair costs or putting the iPads under the existing insurance program were three options shared by Hollingsworth. There would be no deductible with the current insurance program, he said.

“The cost to cover all 220 iPads would be about $4,000 a year,” Hollingsworth said. “Some kids are being really rough with them. Some students have to leave their iPad at school, not take it home with them.”

Between 12 and 15 have been repaired thus far, he said. When asked, he said the cases are a bit more rugged, supposed to help with dropping them.

“One weakness, if kneeled on, fallen on or stepped on, it’s not protected that well,” Hollingsworth said.

Can students who can only use their iPad at school do their work at home, director Ann Schwab asked.

“So far, yes,” Hollingsworth said.

“If we’re going to use computers like pencils, we’ve got to make sure they’re in the students’ hands. Not take away opportunities for them,” director Joel Pike said. He did not support putting the cost onto parents based on previous experience within the district.

The iPads are a tool students need, director Doug DiPasquale said.

“Stay with AppleCare until it runs out, then switch over when the time comes,” he added.

Board chairman Robert Staples suggested money be put in the budget to cover repair costs.


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