NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – After a year of remote learning, some experts say students are having a hard time adjusting back in the classroom and it’s taking a toll on their mental health. School districts across the state are seeing a stronger need for youth mental health resources than before. Leaders say the pandemic has stunted maturity and developmental levels for some students.
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Vicki Price with Albuquerque Public Schools says the district is seeing these issues in students of all ages. “Well there’s a lot of skills you learn as a second-grader watching other second graders,” explains Price. “We have a classroom full of kids where some are acting like third graders, some are acting like second graders, some are acting like first graders. That’s a huge developmental difference.”
To help out, three school districts in New Mexico, Santa Fe, Farmington and Socorro, are being awarded a nearly $9 million grant from the New Mexico Public Education Department. The districts were chosen partly because they serve many low-income students and students who speak English as a second language.
The program, dubbed “Project AWARE” will also help address a staffing shortage in schools that have impacted many counseling services for students. “We’ll be able to hire a community project manager, clinicians, you know even social work case manager type positions and those will be the individuals that will help support our students,” said Superintendent Hilario Chavez.
Santa Fe Public Schools also wants to utilize project money to help support Native American students. School employees will also take part in several mental health training over the course of the five-year project. The grant is being funded through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.