The Clark County School District will spend $761,000 on a platform to monitor the mental health of students and staff amid growing concerns about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on emotional well-being.
The school board on Thursday approved the purchase of Panorama Education’s data platform and mental health screening assessment for third through 12th grades, paid for through state and federal emergency relief funds via the Assembly Bill 3 block grant and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
In a media call to promote the new program Friday, Jara said the platform also would give schools a way to bring existing data points used to track students’ well-being, such as academics, behavior and attendance, into one system. Combined with the district’s door-to-door efforts to keep tabs on students, the goal is to provide early interventions for students struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
The mental health of students and staff has come into focus at recent board meetings, with an Oct. 8 presentation on the uptick of youth suicides in the district this school year.
Trustees and staff pointed out that mental health issues have long been on the rise among youth, but that distance learning has presented extra obstacles.
“One of the challenges when you look at the screen is you’re not seeing their faces, you’re seeing their letter or their phone number,” Jara said.
As part of the effort to address the concerns, small multidisciplinary teams of counselors and administrators will resume working on campuses in January to provide in-person services for students in need, Jara added.
The Panorama surveys also will screen staff on their well-being, but the results will only be shared in the aggregate.
The Nevada Department of Education and the Washoe County School District are among the 1,500 education agencies that Panorama Education works with already, according to a district news release.
A pilot program was rolled out in 12 Clark County schools over the last month.
The district is next planning to expand the program into 50 more schools, with Jara acknowledging trustees’ concerns about staffing the program at all 360 schools amid a shortage of school mental health professionals.
As the program rolls out, principals will be largely responsible for deciding how to distribute the screening survey and to which students, Jara said.
When school buildings reopen, the program will continue to serve as another data set available for educators and counselors, he added.
The contract for Panorama Education lasts through Dec. 10, 2021, though trustees said Thursday that they would like to see the program funded beyond one year.
Jara said Friday that the program is a priority despite the budget woes at the state level and that he has discussed it with Nevada’s federal delegation.
For anyone in need of help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free and confidential hotline offering 24/7 crisis support at 800-273-TALK (8255).