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story.lead_photo.caption Melissa Head, counselor at North Callaway High School, passes a report around to members of the North Callaway Board of Education during Thursday's meeting. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

KINGDOM CITY — During a tough year, North Callaway R-1 is prioritizing students' physical and mental health, district staff told the board of education Thursday night.

The North Callaway Board of Education heard updates and received written reports from the district's counseling program, health services program and Wellness Committee.



School counselor Melissa Head presented an update on the district's counseling program. Each school within the district has a counselor, and there's also a counseling advisory committee consisting of the counselors, administrators, teachers, parents and community members.

Head said students' mental, social and emotional health are a big concern, especially this year and particularly for students who opted for virtual schooling.

"They're still in isolation, and they've been in isolation for almost a year now," Head said.

During the counseling advisory committee's January meeting, one committee member suggested that should a similar situation ever arise again, students who enter remote schooling should be asked to name several adults within the district they're comfortable with. Those adults could then make contact with the student on a regular basis and make sure they're coping adequately.

But students who attend in-person classes are feeling the weight, too.

"As expected, we've had an increase in panic and anxiety (among students) coming back into the building and dealing with people again," Head said. "We have students we see daily."

She noted students are stressed by issues beyond the ongoing pandemic.

"There's been a lot of turmoil, not just the pandemic, but all the politics and racism the kids are dealing with," Head said.

Two counseling interns are helping share the counselors' burden and aid students. Additionally, the district continues to offer a food pantry stocked by donations from the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri and donations from community members.

"They're really trying to help our kids and our family," Head said.

Goals for this school year include producing virtual lessons for students and and helping the district become more "trauma informed" — that is, bearing in mind how a history of trauma could impact children's lives and behaviors.

"This year, we're sitting down with administration and starting to come up with a plan so we're trauma-informed across the district," Head said.

Other initiatives under development include suicide prevention presentations for parents and students, bullying presentations and promotion of self-care for all.


Health services

District nurse Sara Speight presented the health services report.

In total, the district's health rooms were visited 9,049 times during the 2019-20 school year — more than 2,000 fewer visits than any of the previous four school years. Like other area districts, North Callaway closed its doors during spring semester in 2020 when the pandemic arrived in the area, meaning students weren't in the buildings and thus weren't visiting the health rooms.

Speight said the district was still able to offer its usual health screenings and immunization clinics. It also taught CPR classes to students and staff — high school seniors are required to earn a CPR certification before graduating.

Students in Missouri's schools are required to receive certain vaccinations each year. Immunization compliance at North Callaway stood at 98 percent in October 2020: 95 percent at Hatton-McCredie Elementary, 96 percent at the high school, and 98 percent at Williamsburg Elementary and North Callaway Middle School.

New this year was a clinic offering free flu shots to North Callaway students in partnership with the Callaway County Health Department.

"We're hoping to make it bigger and better next year — and maybe earlier in the year," Speight said.

The student flu shot clinic took place Nov. 24, at which point many students had already received their flu shots elsewhere.

The district's Wellness Committee consists of the superintendent, district nurse, counselors, principals, PE teachers, OPAA manager, T-Bird Learning Center director and parents. It meets on a quarterly basis and discusses nutrition, physical education and health services.

"Most recently, parents can purchase snacks for (classroom) parties from OPAA," Speight said.

The full text of each board report may be viewed online here.

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