The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s plan to add more mental health services and additional safety precautions will not move forward. On Friday, Mayor Charlie Pierce vetoed roughly $650,000 that would have gone to boosting mental health services for elementary students and safety evaluations at schools throughout the district.
“As evidenced by the recent incidents across our country and schools, it is pretty clear that the safety needs for the students in our schools today have increased tremendously and need to be addressed," said assistant superintendent Dave Jones.
The district planned to contract a safety specialist to evaluate potential shortcomings in security at schools. The district also planned to hire three itinerate elementary school counselors and a clinical physiologist among other positions.
In an annual health services report released this summer, school nurses in the district reported that more fifth and sixth graders are arriving at school with emotional needs. Nurses also saw an increase in students considering suicide and self-harm at the high school level.
“I think when you look at the students in our schools, there is a lot of need out there for mental health services in our student populations and in our communities,” Jones said. “I think that's what's leading to some of the problems across the nation. So we'd like to try and help and address those before it reaches that point that it has in other districts.”
The district does not currently employ any elementary school counselors, but it does partner with other organizations to provide mental health services for some younger students. The district does have counselors on hand at the middle and high school level.