DANVILLE — Danville Area schools have one school counselor for every 300 students, which is close to the American School Counselor Association recommended 250-to-1 ratio, a district administrator told the school board on Wednesday night.

School officials were discussing steps taken in recent weeks to minimize pressures on students and provide additional student supports.

It follows the school board's actions last month to shorten the school day to no more than 6 hours and 45 minutes, and reduce the credits high school students need to graduate from 27 to 24, to help address students' emotional and mental health issues.

Acting Superintendent Ricki Boyle said at the Jan. 22 meeting a recent survey showed that "Thirty-five percent of students are dealing with anxiety, stress, depression and possible drug and alcohol problems."

A middle school student also recently took his life. Boyle said at least 10 students also have been hospitalized during the school year for either suicide attempts or indications they were considering suicide.

The board also hired Mike Brennan last month as a personalized learning teacher at the high school at $72,311 per year to work more closely with students who need extra attention. He also was hired as Danville's football coach.

On Wednesday night, Chris Johns, director of student affairs and services, updated the school board on staffing and counseling services. In a board statement that board Vice President Dr. Victor Marks read, the update was part of the district administrators' long-range planning process.

Johns said the district has three full-time intervention specialists for four buildings and noted the student-to-counselor ratio was close to what the national association recommended.

"Approximately 1 in 5, 1 in 6 kids have received some type of services," Johns said.

Johns also listed 21 sources of student stress, what he said was a partial list, from domestic and home pressures, peer pressure and social media, to academic pressure, gossip and rumors, expectations and deadlines. He noted the district has a number of counseling supports, including intervention services and student assistance programs.

Among the future goals is to collaborate with Geisinger for students to receive mental health services.

Marks read that the board members encourage residents to schedule a meeting with Boyle if they have questions.

In other business at the meeting, the board approved Dave Tumolo as head girls soccer coach for the 12-week season this fall and as middle school girls soccer coach for the nine-week season this spring. 

The board also approved Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit's 2020-2021 preliminary general operating budget of $886,527. 

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