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School district recognizes mental health month, provides update on social services 

Date:

Officials received updates on campus crime, social studies curricula and policies

Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday accepted a proclamation recognizing May 2023 as National Mental Health Awareness Month within the district. 

Several school counselors came to voice their support of the proclamation. They encouraged the board to continue to expand mental health offerings within schools. 

Board President Beth Smith said that while mental health has always been an important issue in schools, it has become a larger focus since the pandemic. 

Beth Smith, Washoe County School District trustee.
Beth Smith, Washoe County School District trustee.

“Mental health has always mattered,” she said. “I think it’s more at the forefront of our minds following the pandemic, and so much of what this board is trying to accomplish, in many ways, those roads lead back to mental health and support.” 

Superintendent Susan Enfield also gave an update on Care Solace, a confidential mental health service provided to staff members, students and their families which was adopted earlier this year. 

In the three months since the district began partnering with Care Solace, 1,603 families have reached out with service requests, and 328 cases have been handled to date. 

Of those, 98 appointments have been placed into services. 

“This is the beginning of an ongoing partnership,” Enfield said. “I also want to acknowledge that the partnership with Care Solace would not be … as strong as it is in these early stages were it not for this team who has embraced it.”

Enfield said that, as strong as the district’s team of counselors is, mental health needs are so great that investing in resources like Care Solace helps them do their jobs even better. 

The full proclamation can be viewed here. 

Trustees approve National Geographic social studies curriculum 

Trustees voted in favor of spending approximately $4.5 million on social studies instructional materials provided by National Geographic. 

In January, a committee of teachers, administrators and community members was formed to discuss social studies needs in the district and to review educational materials. 

After deliberation, National Geographic’s materials were selected as the best match to the Nevada Academic Content Standards, as well as the district’s interests. 

The course materials can be viewed at this link with the password Welcome1 : https://nglsync.cengage.com/review/AWKE

Prior to the vote, the materials were available for public review since March, according to Smith. 

Funding for the programs, which cover middle and high school, will come from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) III grants. 

According to board documents, the state-approved materials the district had to choose from included government, U.S. and world history materials from National Geographic, Educurious and Teacher’s Curriculum Institute for grades 6-12.

Approval of the materials was unanimous. 

School Police: Crime is not increasing 

Chief Jason Trevino provided an update on the Washoe County School District Police Department, along with officer assignments. 

Trevino discussed crime data for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years which, against public perception, have remained largely unchanged. 

“We haven’t seen major jumps [in crime],” Trevino said. “I know that’s been a big question this year, with a very large perception this year that things are a little, quote, ‘out of control,’ I’ve heard that a lot — and I’m not saying that we’re not having issues in our schools. Obviously one battery to staff is one battery too many.” 

In the 2021-2022 school year, there were approximately 200 battery cases reported throughout the district, compared with 150 this year. Battery to staff remained virtually the same at around 40 incidences in both years, as did assault to staff with fewer than 10 incidences in both years. 

Drug crimes have had a slight uptick, from just over 300 incidences reported last year, to just over 350 this year. 

Trevino said that some incidents are co-occurring, meaning one single fight could include a battery, a battery to staff and involve a drug crime. Each crime counts individually in each category. 

“Oftentimes, they’ll hit at least two categories,” Trevino said. 

Trevino said the most common drug issue at the schools has shifted away from “traditional” drugs and is largely now related to THC vape products. 

Most drug crimes are in some way related to cannabis, but drug sales are not common on campuses, Trevino said. 

The department has 45 staff members including 10 campus officers, 10 patrol officers and four sergeants. Other personnel range from detectives, to a victim’s advocate, dispatch and fingerprinting. 

Trevino also discussed regional partnerships including the gang unit, safe routes to school and the district attorney’s office. 

One partnership he singled out was the Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) unit. 

“This year, I assigned one of our detectives to the HEAT unit to combat the human trafficking of juveniles,” Trevino said. “That’s gone extremely well—that position has really proven already to be extremely valuable to not only our police department but to our community as a whole. We’re really making a lot of inroads there, which is fantastic.” 

The school police department is also hoping to create a law enforcement career program for students. 

“We’re very excited about this,” Trevino said. “It’s not going to happen today, but we are in talks with the CTE [career and technical education] program and are working to make it happen.” 

Trevino envisions the program being insular, in which students could enter the CTE program, graduate, train as an officer and end up patrolling back in the program as a full field officer themselves. 

“That would be a fantastic, start-to-finish story for the school district and the police department,” Trevino said. 

The presentation can be viewed here. 

Policy updates for public bodies

Trustees voted to approve the proposed revisions to a policy relating to public bodies, and the appointment of members to public bodies within the district. 

They approved amending the policy so that body members can’t serve for more than three consecutive terms without a one-year break in service, reduced from the current five consecutive terms allowed. 

The policy was also amended to change language that would cause a potential removal of a member after they miss one-third of meetings during a calendar year, as opposed to current language which states a “majority of meetings.” 

Other minor language updates were amended within the policy as well. 

In other items

— Trustees recognized May 8-12 as Educator Appreciation Week, and May 9 as National Educator Day within the district. 

— A Memorandum of Understanding was approved between the district and Toll North Reno LLC to facilitate the donation of a 10-acre parcel of land for a future planned elementary school within the planned Quilici subdivision in Verdi. 

— Trustees approved the purchase of 100 Book Challenge resources for several elementary schools for $149,430 to “accelerate every student’s reading capacity and ability by using real books.” 

— Trustees approved an application to the U.S. Department of Education for a Community Projects Grant for the Chronic Absenteeism Project for just over $1 million. If accepted, grant funds will be used to expand school-based student support staff and increase the number of Family Resource Centers in Washoe County to reduce chronic absenteeism in K-12 students. 

Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.

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