The Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) will be expanding its wellness centers—previously offered only at the high school level—to middle school sites to foster a sense of belonging and make resources more easily accessible to students.
There are currently 11 wellness centers across LBUSD high school campuses including Cabrillo, Poly, Renaissance and Wilson. According to assistant superintendent of school support services Erin Simon, over 65,000 students entered these centers over the last year for assistance.
Some of the supports offered at the centers include short-term counseling services by appointment, family support groups and workshops and a Basic Needs Closet where students are free to take snacks, non-perishable food, toiletries and extra clothes
The goal of the centers is to strengthen the social and emotional skills of students, families and staff. Similar to the planning for high school centers, middle school students received a survey asking them to share what type of activities they’d like the centers to offer and what type of resources they need.
The middle school centers, however, will be tailored to the specific needs of middle school students. According to assistant superintendent of middle and K-8 schools, Christopher Lund, some of the main differences include establishing a referral system to help with organization instead of the walk-in system currently used at the high school level.
Lund also said that fomenting more parent involvement is another key difference, as he called them “partners in learning.” Unlike at the high school level, middle school wellness centers will be directly connected to the Family Resource Centers, which provide counseling and referral services to LBUSD families, not just students.
“We want to replicate what we’ve learned from our high school model while also differentiating for our younger students,” Lund said.
The wellness centers are not crisis centers but more so a prevention/early intervention resource. Students that present any type of mental health crisis or that may need a suicide assessment will not be referred to the wellness center but rather to the appropriate expert.
Director of student support services Claudia Sosa-Valderrama said that the centers weren’t meant to be a place students would be “afraid to be seen in” but rather a space that offered various forms of support.
“We’re not just going to write phone numbers on a post-it and give it to a student or a family because that’s [something] anybody can get from the internet,” Sosa-Valderrama said. “We’re going to help them access those resources.”
The district has hired 12 workers to staff the 23 middle school campuses; each site will have either a full-time social worker or share one with another middle school. Each center will also have a student committee that works alongside the social workers to ensure activities are student-focused and student-led.
“It’s really complicated and comprehensive work that I think we wanted to do and [now] have the opportunity with some of the funding streams to try out what works,” Board President Megan Kerr said.
The wellness centers are funded through ongoing state funds and are slated to open by October.
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