Shasta County schools offer 2 programs to increase mental health and academic success

SHASTA COUNTY, Calif.- The Shasta County Office of Education and the county’s schools have expanded programs to increase students’ mental health, attendance and academic success.

One of the programs focuses on tutoring, before, during or after school.

Schools across the county have added different tutoring programs that started because of COVID.

Some schools are just paying overtime for their current staff to tutor after school, but some schools, like Turtle Bay Elementary School, have hired retired teachers to help out.

There are six retired teachers at Turtle Bay, teaching students and helping out the staff.

Turtle Bay principal, AJ Anderson, told Action News Now that the tutors are a valuable resource and have already been improving test scores.

“They have been a game-changer,” Anderson said. “Because not only are they tutoring the kids but they’re helping with our younger teachers too. They’re helping with the science curriculum, they’re helping with the math curriculum, and really helping our newer teachers understand what makes a good program.”

Anderson said the tutoring program started by targeting students in high-risk categories like low-income and adopted children.

Once the school saw how successful the program was, they included all struggling students.

Action News Now spoke with parents who have kids attending Turtle Bay Elementary School, like Cindy Rick, who say they’re glad this program exists.

“I think there are a lot of parents who would like to have their children tutored,” Rick said. “Maybe they can’t afford it, or they don’t have the time, or how to even find the services, so the fact that we have tutors here on campus during school hours is a huge help not only to the students but to the parents as well.”

Money given to school districts to deal with COVID impacts pays for the tutoring program.

That money will eventually run out, but Anderson told action news now that the tutors will be back for at least another school year.

The Shasta County Office of Education also offers a program called Community Connect.

The program started in late 2020 and helps families connect with mental health and other resources across the county to improve student’s quality of life and academic success.

The county realized it had a high amount of chronic absenteeism and started this program.

That’s when students miss 10% or more of the school year.

When a student is chronically absent, schools ask to find out the problem and then help the student and family.

“Once we go through and really understand the needs of families, then we’re able to make those referrals to agencies throughout our community that really can come around and provide the support the family needs,” Judy Flores, the Shasta County Superintendent of Schools said.

Wendy Hall is the Shasta County Office of Education Director of Continuous Improvement and Support.

She has been one of the key leaders in the education office for this program.

Hall says support from the program can be direct like meeting with a clinician regularly, or it can be a simple phone call pointing families in the right direction.

“We know how to help you navigate that and navigate the system so they get the right supports at the right time and then raise the quality of life, and remove those barriers, which will ultimately improve attendance and engagement in school,” Hall said.

The Shasta County Office of Education says over 800 students have used the Community Connect program and said that it is a valuable resource to give the best education to students across the county.

The Shasta County Office of Education told Action News Now that it plans to continue this program and expand it further in the future.

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