Social workers added to District 11 schools

To better ensure students receive support and services available to them, the Anoka-Hennepin School District is adding social worker positions at its middle and high schools in the 2012-13 school year.

All elementary schools, River Trail, the special education evaluation team and the Teen Pregnancy Program currently have this position.

The new positions are paid for through an increase in state compensatory aid.

Jinger Gustafson, associate superintendent of middle schools, said a variety of support staff, including counselors, school psychologists and administrators, now work to meet the needs of a social worker role.

In a time where students and families consider schools to be a community hub of support, the new positions will provide students and families with connections to resources for food, shelter and mental health services, according to Gustafson.

“The overall goal in the distribution of social worker positions surrounded the ability to provide a student and/or family support through their secondary experience,” Gustafson said.

“We aligned social worker positions at the middle school to coincide with the student’s corresponding high schools.

“We are hoping this will enable students and their families to build relationships over the long term.”

Four social workers and one therapist will be hired.

Their duties will fall into two categories: prevention, intervention and crisis response; and prevention, intervention, community/agency response.

They will help students with everything from coping with stress and family issues to working on community outreach.

Roosevelt and Oak View middle schools will have .2 positions. Coon Rapids Middle School will have a .4 position. Northdale Middle School will have .4 and .2 positions because their students go to both Blaine and Coon Rapids high schools.

Anoka Middle School for the Arts will have a half-time position. Jackson Middle School will not add a position because the school can handle student needs within its current staffing model.

“Social workers bring a skill set to the middle schools that is different than teachers, counselors and administrators,” Gustafson said.

“Social workers will complement the current dynamic that exists in today’s middle school classrooms, but help fill a need in today’s community.

“We are very thankful to be able to support our students and families with this additional resource.”

Jeff McGonigal, associate superintendent of high schools, said in general, district administration hopes the social worker can become a caring adult for students with such significant needs that go beyond the capacity of our counselors and principals.

Champlin Park High School will have a half-time position. Andover, Blaine, Coon Rapids and Crossroads high schools will have a .4 position.

Anoka High School (AHS) will not add a position because it currently houses a therapist from the Lee Carlson Center for Mental Health & Well-Being, who provides services when needed at other secondary schools.

“We want all our students to have their basic needs met in order to be learning ready,” McGonigal said.

“We believe these new positions, even limited as they are, will help many students and families connect their needs outside school to better learning in school.”