EDITORIAL: Southington school funding will go toward mental and behavioral health health

After the school budget was trimmed by $500,000 by the Town Council, there were members of the Southington Board of Education who were concerned about a missed opportunity. 

“Coming out of COVID we had an opportunity to come out swinging, to provide, to do options for students,” said Joe Baczewski, the school board vice chairman. “Man, we fell short.”

School officials have now found a way to go to bat for students, using federal relief funds to quickly hire eight new educators. The emphasis is on mental and behavioral health. The positions recommended by School Superintendent Steven Madancy are three social workers, a school psychologist, two board-certified behavioral analysts, a special education teacher and a program behaviorist.

As the Record-Journal reported, there is urgency in filling these positions, with school leaders saying it’s important to hire early this summer because of the tight labor market. The annual cost of $610,000 for mental health workers will come from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

We can hope that the intensity of the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic will remain in the past, what will continue to be difficult to gauge are the lingering effects of so dramatic a change brought on by the global health emergency. Directing efforts toward the mental and behavioral health of young people is a smart move by school leaders in Southington.

“This is what it was intended for,” said David Derynoski, a school board member, about the relief funding. “I wish we could have done more last year. We wouldn't be having all these emails coming, in, it seems almost daily, of students in crisis at the different schools.”

Sustainability is often a concern when it comes to spending, yet the approach of taking it one step at a time in this case is warranted. Young people need help, and there is no time to lose.


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