As Montgomery County Public Schools focuses on attempting to better support students’ mental health needs, a push to bring wellness spaces to all of its high schools is on track to be completed by the end of summer break.
During a school board meeting last week, members approved contracts with the company that will be tasked with completing the project, which county leaders have said is imperative to ensuring students have the mental wellness support they need to focus on learning.
The contract was awarded to Keller Brothers, Inc., a Mt. Airy-based contractor, for about $6.8 million.
The wellness spaces will be built-out at 19 high schools, according to school board documents. Staffed by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, they will offer mental health care, such as individual counseling, family and group counseling and crisis intervention. Students can use the spaces for other wellness activities like meditation and breathing exercises, as needed, school officials have said.
The five schools that already have wellness centers also offer some health care services, including immunizations, vision and hearing assessments, preventive care and sports physicals. The new locations aren’t expected to have those services yet, according to Dira Treadvance, chief of children, youth and families for the Department of Health and Human Services. The long-term goal is to add those services, she said.
In April, the County Council passed special appropriations to MCPS’ budget, totaling $8 million, to fund the creation of the spaces in every high school. They will be located in existing spaces — like empty classrooms — or in relocatable classrooms outside of the building.
During a school board meeting last week, MCPS Director of Facilities Management Seth Adams said each space will be operational by the first day of school, though some final touches may need to be done throughout the fall.
“It’s going to involve around the clock, Saturday and Sunday work, in order to do this. … It will come down to probably the last day of summer break before schools open,” Adams said.
Treadvance said it’s possible that each new space won’t be fully staffed with a licensed therapist when school starts, but every one will have services available. That could include an art therapist, a music therapist, yoga or other therapeutic support “until we can get the licensed clinician that can do more formal medical treatment,” Treadvance said.
The high schools that already have wellness centers are:
• Northwood High School
• Gaithersburg High School
• Watkins Mill High School
• Wheaton High School
• Seneca Valley High School
A sixth wellness center was already under construction at John F. Kennedy High School.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org