Following risk screening, Erving Elementary School implementing student mental health program

Erving Elementary School.

Erving Elementary School. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-28-2024 2:39 PM

ERVING — After results from a recent survey showed that 7% of Erving students were in the “high risk” emotional category and another 32% were at “some risk” emotionally, Erving Elementary School is moving forward with a new student mental health program.

Speaking before the School Committee last week, Curriculum Coordinator Lindsay Rodriguez noted that the data, which teachers collected from students in kindergarten through sixth grade, shows that Erving Elementary School screened slightly higher than other districts that participate, which on average comprise about an 80% “low risk” student body with 15% to 20% of students in the “some risk” category and 0% to 5% at “high risk.”

“We were able to really think about how we can support that 7% with this BRYT opportunity, and find areas that we can also support that ‘some risk’ category,” Rodriguez said, referring to the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition program.

According to Paul Hyry-Dermith, director of BRYT, 180 schools in Massachusetts have implemented BRYT programming since its inception 20 years ago. Last week, the Healey-Driscoll administration allocated roughly $13 million for another 30 high-risk schools to implement the student mental health program.

The program creates a “student success center” classroom for students facing mental health challenges to receive counseling and support. Hyry-Dermith noted that while counseling sessions with moderate-risk students will be capped at 10 students, counseling for high-risk students will be limited to five students at any given time.

According to BRYT District and School Specialist Zemora Tevah, the program will be staffed by a full-time teacher, the school’s adjustment counselor and the school psychologist. Tevah also noted that BRYT staff will coordinate mental health strategies with teachers and parents to ensure wraparound support for students in need.

“In the student success center, students will be learning regulation strategies that will help support their ability to participate in classes. BRYT staff will be helping students learn how to regulate their emotions,” Tevah said. “Students will access core classroom instruction for as much time as they are able to engage in productively.”

Using state support, Hyry-Dermith said Erving Elementary School can expect to pay about $20,400 out-of-pocket for the first year of the program, around $16,400 the second year and $16,200 the third year. Rodriguez noted that Hyry-Dermith’s cost estimates include a $14,400 charge each year for staffing support, which she said Erving will not need as the district has the staff necessary for the program.

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Although the School Committee voted unanimously last week to sign a contract with BRYT pending approval from town counsel and the superintendent, the potential financial impacts from BRYT’s implementation prompted concern among some committee members, who wanted to ensure the district could afford to continue funding the program if it proves to be successful.

“Nobody’s saying that we don’t have needs and nobody’s saying that we don’t want to address those needs,” School Committee Chair Mackensey Bailey said. “Our role up here is to be looking at our budget and to make sure that it is something that we can go forward with, that it’s sustainable and has a way to measure whether it’s successful or not.”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.