Diocese of Fall River schools hire counselor to help mental health of students and staff - CS Alliance

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Diocese of Fall River schools hire counselor to help mental health of students and staff



The pandemic has taken a toll on students’ mental health, and public and private schools alike are taking notice.

School administrators for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River are hiring an adjustment counselor to oversee 19 private schools from Mansfield to Cape Cod.

Cynthia Roche will hold the role, which is the first of its kind for the private, Catholic schools office.

“I’ve seen more kids with anxiety, more kids with depression, struggling socially. It’s all been issues before, but there’s definitely an increased need for support right now,” Roche said.

Until now, the elementary schools had no full-time counselors on hand and school leaders said it’s time to bridge that gap.

“When you try to put yourself into a 4-year-old’s shoes, that 4-year-old was a toddler at the outset of this pandemic. Many parents say that this was the most traumatic event in their children’s lives thus far with all of the chaos and uncertainty, not to mention the loss, disruption, the lack of routine, the lack of uncertainty” said Daniel Roy, the superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Fall River.

Roche added, “I think there is a huge need right now. I think our children are struggling. They’re falling behind and we need to reach them at a young age and quickly so they can be successful.”

Federal data shows 77% of public schools pivoted to remote learning in 2020 and 73% of private schools also switched to online learning. The Diocese of Fall River schools went virtual from March 2020 to June 2020, which is a shorter time period than most of their public school counterparts.

While surveys from the National Center for Education Statistics show more public school teachers felt a lack of support during this time, it shows private school teachers also felt strained.

“Teachers have experienced the pandemic in their own lives and their own families. It’s been a constant adapting and readapting. It’s been unsettling for them,” said Roy.

In the new role, Roche will also work with teachers and staff on how to handle changes in student behavior and provide support to any teachers who are struggling.

“I think the teachers have increased challenges with today’s students post-pandemic because the behavioral dysregulation in students can be very challenging in the classroom and often misunderstood,” Roche said.

Roche said she hopes the support will also help with burnout in the classroom as class sizes increase slightly. Data shows enrollment at the elementary schools increased by 3% during the 2021-22 school year compared to the year prior.

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