The provincial government is expanding mental health support for schools.
Under Alberta’s recovery plan, Alberta Education is supporting mental health pilot projects in schools with an investment of $40 million.
“We are aware that as students continue to recover from learning disruptions, additional mental health supports are needed to ensure each individual is able to move forward and reach their fullest potential within the school system. This investment ensures that students across Alberta have adequate access to mental health resources and support, which will result in a better chance of participating in meaningful learning and relationship building. Additionally, targeted programming for early elementary learners will support the objective of maintaining on-track development, which may have been previously lost due to interferences in school,” Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange said.
The investment will be allocated over two years to support nearly 60 mental health pilot projects to improve the well-being of students, a government of Alberta media release said.
“Students deserve to feel supported and have access to mental health support as they complete their K-12 studies. Through our province’s recovery-oriented system of care, we are taking action to improve the mental health of children and youth and make a difference in their lives,” Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Nicholas Milliken said.
With the investment, school authorities will work with mental health service providers to provide pilot projects, including counselling, social and emotional learning, student assessment, and training for school staff until December 2024.
Beginning in 2023, CASA mental health classroom teams will support students with intensive or specialized treatment needs who require more help to succeed than a regular classroom with added mental health supports, the release said.
“The Alberta School Boards Association appreciates the government’s announcement of additional funding that will assist school boards in providing support and services for students who continue to recover from mental health challenges and learning loss. This will allow for timely and accessible mitigation of long-term effects of the pandemic for our students,” president of the Alberta School Boards Association Marilyn Dennis said.
In addition to the $40 million investment, the province is also providing school authorities with $10 million this year to help students struggling after the pandemic.
School authorities will have the opportunity to design their own programs to meet the needs of their students with the additional funding.
With the funding, school authorities could hire additional teachers and educational assistants, provide additional training for their staff, or purchase resources.
In 2021/22 school authorities received $45 million to help grade one to three students catch up from the pandemic.
The students regained an average of five to eight months of literacy and numeracy development, the release said. Funding this year will go towards the same group of students, now in grades two to four.
“Early literacy and early numeracy skills are strong predictors of a child’s long-term academic achievement. Research has shown that if educators can identify and help struggling learners early, those students can catch up to grade level relatively quickly,” the release said. “By providing extra support to Alberta’s youngest learners now, the government will prevent pandemic learning disruptions from having a lasting impact on student development.”