U.P. school districts looking to hire more counselors and health professionals

NICE Community Schools looks to add another counselor while Ironwood Area Schools has already hired a second professional
The search is on to make sure Upper Peninsula grade school students get through difficult times.
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:47 PM EST
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ISHPEMING TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The search is on to make sure Upper Peninsula grade school students get through difficult times.

NICE Community Schools Superintendent Bryan DeAugustine says his district has two counselors and a social worker assisting with students’ health needs. And now, the district is looking to add another professional.

“We have a plan in place, or are working on a plan, to add at least one,” said DeAugustine. “And so we’ll have another full-time counselor at our Aspen Ridge building, which houses about two-thirds of our students.”

NICE plans to use state emergency relief fund money to get started with paying the new full-time counselor. The state K-12 budget Governor Whitmer signed last summer includes $240 million to hire those professionals.

DeAugustine says the extra help could benefit all students, especially the middle and high schoolers preparing for their futures.

“If a student needs something in real time...just trying to get to those events that pop up in anyone’s life where a person just needs someone to talk to, or a friendly ear to listen, I think that’s going to be really important,” he stated.

At Ironwood Area Schools, things are a little different. Superintendent Travis Powell says before any new funding was distributed, there was only one counselor interacting with all 700 students.

“We now have two school counselors,” Powell explained. “This funding has helped us double our capacity. And now, even though it’s still one {counselor} to 350 students, it’s a much more manageable process.”

If more money becomes available, Powell hopes to add more mental health professionals. Nevertheless, he says his students and those in other districts need less to worry about.

“If they have a person to talk to,” Powell said, “then they’re able to process whatever that thing is that’s bothering them, get some help for it, hopefully resolve it so that they can focus back on their academics or just having an increased quality of life.”

While Ironwood already found its extra professional, NICE hopes to hire another by the spring.

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