HARVARD – Bromfield School student wellness programming was in the spotlight at Monday’s school committee meeting. The presentation was lead primarily by the Bromfield “G+” team, consisting of guidance councilors, the school nurse, the school psychologist and more.
Guidance councilor Lisa Soldi said the “G+” team meets every other week to talk about flagged students- whether it’s for discipline, academic, mental health or wellness issues. “We play off each other,” said Soldi. The G+ team also constitutes the school’s crisis response team.
The school committee update came in the aftermath of the discovery five Bromfield students in possession of marijuana at the school this spring.
“We had a couple incidents this year,” said Bromfield Principal James O’Shea. “We need to take serious action. We don’t want to see another incident happen at our school.”
With prom season around the corner, students may be subjected to Breathalyzer testing at the dance if drunkenness is suspected.
Also, the day before the May 17 prom, a gory reminder of the consequences of drinking and driving will be splayed across the front lawn at the school as Harvard EMTs and student volunteers participate in a mock automobile accident to illustrate the deadly consequences of drinking and driving.
Soldi said student EMT’s approached the school and stressed the need for the dramatic drunk driving display to play out this spring, even though the mock accident is generally performed every other year.
“That shows students care for each other,” said Soldi.
There was a quantum leap this year to further imbed general health and wellness curriculum in the middle and high school.
A .6 FTE Wellness teacher was hired. Offerings have included grade-specific programming, from the “Get Real” health focus for seventh and eighth graders, to “On Your Own” curriculum for seniors which preps upperclassmen for adulthood with units on budgeting, healthy meal choices, and even a how-to on doing their own laundry.
How successful have the wellness classes been? O’Shea said that students are “voting with their feet,” citing a considerable uptick in the number of students seeking to enroll in next year’s wellness courses taught by instructor Elaine Beckett.
On the horizon, other wellness programming includes R.A.D. [Rape Aggression Defense] training for Bromfield girls, taught by the Harvard Police Department. Also, the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office is scheduled to deliver age-appropriate programming on May 20-21.
For grades 6-8, the D.A.’s office will focus on cyber bullying and precautions to take online. For high school juniors and seniors, there will be added discussion about steering away from drinking and drugging, especially while driving.
The school is in midst of its second year of a newly-instituted concussion policy. The awareness program stretched to students, teachers, parents and athletic coaches and provides information and support for students who’ve suffered a head injury of any sort.
School nurse Colleen Nigzus said there were 24 concussions reported last year among Bromfield students; this year the count stands at 16 students. The cross-school coordination has “given a lot of clarity to put everyone on the same page” when dealing with the affects of concussions, said Nigzus.
For students and families in need of therapy, Bromfield has coordinated with the Mass. School of Professional Psychology referral network. The service includes follow-up calls to ensure “a good fit” for client and psychologist, said Soldi.
Next year, a district-wide adjustment counselor comes aboard to support students within the Bromfield environment. O’Shea said the youth risk data collected through student surveys show that ‘impulsive’ adolescent behavior impacts education. The counselor will aid in those situations and more.
The need is there “looking you in the face,” said O’Shea. “You can’t ignore it. Those are real kids. Those are real people.”
Later in May, the team will present the school committee with a proposal to make the completion of wellness courses a graduation requirement.
“After the last month and a half, we have to do more work,” said O’Shea.
School committee member Kirsten Wright said she’s noticed her middle-school aged son talking more about health and wellness issues at home. Many of the concerns flagged by the youth risk survey are communal concerns.
“It’s not owned by the schools,” said Wright. “It’s owned by all of us.”
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.