Its not perfect, but its working.
Richmond school district staff and its elected board chair are confident the adolescent support team is getting it right and reaching vulnerable students in need of help.
The highlytrained four-person team was formed in the wake of the scything cutbacks forced upon the school board at the height of the recession.
Prior to the cutbacks, each secondary school in the district boasted its own youth support worker (YSW), employees that struck up a daily rapport with students.
It was such relationships that most schools enthused about and many fears were expressed about the well-being of students when the YSWs fell victim to the cuts.
With a view to tracking the progress of the new streamlined team a vital cog in the districts wheel of teenage support a report went before the school board last week, analyzing the response times and identifying any gaps in the service model.
Staff is telling us that it is (working), said school board chair Donna Sargent.
They really feel its reaching the students that need the support.
Although they feel it is working, they did note that there are gaps that need addressed. We did have discussions about this and a lot was mentioned about the support available in the community, because students need support past 3 p.m.
Trying to compare the work of the new team, however, with the closer relationship formerly enjoyed by the many youth support workers would be inappropriate, according to the school districts director of instruction and learning services, Kathy Champion.
You simply cant compare the two. Its tempting to try, but it would be wrong, said Champion.
The youth support workers were in the schools all the time. They were in the hallways, talking to kids informally, perhaps dealing with smaller issues that didnt get recorded, so we cant compare.
They also didnt provide the support that the current team provides; such as mental health and social and emotional support.
The service we have now is very different.
Champion said shes happy with the teams response times, noting that the most important issues can be reached within the day.
Others may take a little longer, but Im very happy with the model we have.
Anxiety is still the single biggest issue among students, said Champion. Were getting better at resolving it, but there are many manifestations of it and it continues to grow.
In terms of the gaps in the current service, both Champion and Sargent feel the community at large has the responsibility to step in and fill any void.
There are issues with transporting the kids in question to programs and services not being available at the weekend, Champion pointed out.
These children need support outside of school hours.
We need to work with our community partners and mental health partners to address the gaps.
It will probably come down to a funding issue, theres never enough money. But theres more strength in working together, rather than blaming people for gaps in the service.
Some schools miss having someone on site to support the students, said Champion, before adding that, this is what we have now and we will continue to work with it.
Sargent said the board has asked for another progress report in September, so it can continue to monitor the work of the adolescent team.
But even with the recession in the rear-view mirror, theres little chance now, or in the foreseeable future, of the popular YSWs returning to Richmonds secondary schools.
Not at this time. We are not adding anything new to next years budget, said Sargent, adding that enrolment is predicted to be down around 500 students next year as well, leading to less revenue.
It will be a status quo budget; but at least were not laying anyone off.
The idea of more support was on the table, but we simply dont have the money.