KISD will expand the Character Strong program and hire additional social workers during the 2020-21 school year, Gregorski said.
The Character Strong program focuses on students’ emotional wellness and health, and it was implemented at 22 KISD campuses during the 2019-20 school year, Maria Corrales DiPetta, KISD media relations and multimedia manager, said in an email.
For the upcoming school year, the program will be expanded to all campuses, DiPetta and Gregorski said. Dipetta added that the 86th state Legislature passed House Bill 1026, which requires all public school districts to adopt a positive character traits program.
“It'll be in all of our schools,” Gregorski said of Character Strong. “And it's going to focus on different areas of mental health to work with children. We'll do training on that [this summer] for our teachers and staff members.”
One activity included in the Character Strong program included the 30 Days of Kindness in which students, staff and community members were encouraged to perform kind actions to add positivity in daily life during the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, Gregorski and DiPetta said the district will employ a total of six social workers for the 2020-21 school year—an increase of four from the 2019-20 school year. The social workers will collaborate with school counselors and licensed specialists in school psychology to address students’ emotional well-being.
“The district has seen an increased need for social, emotional and mental health support as well as legislative changes ... requiring district to increase mental health support in schools,” DiPetta said. “Social workers serve as a link between home, school and community by providing direct and indirect support services to promote students’ academic and social successes.”
For students and families needing mental, emotional or social health help during the coronavirus pandemic, KISD has a webpage of available resources, Gregorski said. It can be found here: www.katyisd.org/Pages/Katy-ISD-Health-Update.aspx
“We've got a few things that are coming up to support our folks, but we have things right now,” he said. “Go to that website if you need help right now. Contact the folks just like the website says. We're there for you all summer long.”