It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. Those of us who spend our professional lives working with children know that this statement couldn’t be any truer.

A village is a complex mechanism through which people join in the pursuit of a joint cause. In this same vein, Greater Johnstown School District partners with Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania (CISPA) to provide the best educational opportunities for its students.

Partnerships have become even more vital due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has seen an increase in mental health concerns of students across the country. These challenges can only be combated through the collective efforts of a village and GJSD has welcomed community partnerships to do just that.

Meeting the needs of students has long been acknowledged by public school professionals as a challenge that is not uniquely academic. However, recent data suggest that these needs have grown.

In a poll of 2,074 parents conducted by the JED Foundation in October 2020, six out of 10 parents indicated that their children had experienced mental or emotional health challenges in that month alone. Simultaneously, 31% indicated that their children’s mental health is worse than before the onset of the pandemic. With this increase, taking care of the holistic needs of students has become even further complicated.

The need for more support for students has not gone unnoticed. In the spring of 2021, a survey of 1,045 teachers was conducted by the RAND Corp. to measure the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public education system.

Of the 1,045 surveyed teachers, 92% indicated that they required some level of additional support to address the social and emotional needs of their students. Teachers cannot do it all. Despite the fact that guidance counselors and school administrators also jump into the fray, there are frequently not enough adult professionals in school districts to combat the growing student need.

Thankfully, school administrators agree with teachers, more support is needed. In the same RAND Corp. poll, 63% of the 1,183 school administrators surveyed indicated that they would rank staff that address students’ mental health in their Top 3 priorities for hiring purposes during the 2021-2022 school year.

Often, school districts do not have the manpower to adequately meet every individual need those students experience. To reiterate, it truly does take a village of support to raise a child and school districts are not ignorant of this.

With all of this in mind, GJSD welcomes partnerships into the district to give students the best opportunities to learn and grow.

To assist GJSD in its endeavor to support students, CISPA works within each GJSD building to provide integrated supports utilizing a three-tiered system. CISPA employees utilize this system through individualized case management, targeted group sessions and school-wide initiatives.

Additionally, CISPA deploys employees into the community to help families break barriers that halt school attendance and, by extension, student achievement. CISPA also plays a key role in each building’s SST or student support team – a team that uses restorative practices to assist in maintaining classrooms that are most conducive to learning.

With hefty support from GJSD, CISPA has delivered numerous services to students and families that supplement what the district is already doing to make a positive impact.

During the first marking period of the 2021-2022 school year, CISPA reached out to close to 1,050 families to ensure that their children maintain good attendance, have addressed 288 students (individually and in group settings) to work on social and emotional skills that are vital to their future success, and provided family engagement opportunities for 570 families to strengthen the relationship between school and community.

Only through strong partnership, could these services be brokered by CISPA to benefit GJSD and the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we think about school districts across the country. School districts provide more to students and communities than was ever before recognized. They nurture the academic development of students as well as social and emotional development.

With this in mind, it truly does take a village to ensure that students are able to achieve greatness. At GJSD, community partnerships add support where it is most needed, filling gaps to assist in achieving this collective goal.

CISPA is proud to be a part of the GJSD village and hopes to continue working in Cambria County to effect positive change for students, families, and the community.

Aaron Marshall is the community school director for the Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania program in the Greater Johnstown Elementary School. He has worked for the betterment of children in school districts throughout Indiana and Cambria counties for the past eight years and is enrolled to earn his master’s degree in school counseling from Edinboro University.

Aaron Marshall is the Community School Director for the Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania program in the Greater Johnstown Elementary School. He has worked for the betterment of children in school districts throughout Indiana and Cambria Counties for the past 8 years and is enrolled to begin earning his Masters in School Counseling from Edinboro University.

Trending Video

Recommended for you