Kyrene School District implementing curriculum focused on mental health, adding new counselors

The Kyrene School District is taking major steps to ensure its students are socially and emotionally prepared for real life problems.

The district is putting more counselors in its elementary schools and adding a special curriculum focused on mental health.

The social and emotional learning model has been used in the middle schools in the Kyrene School District for two years now and there has been a lot of success with it. The district now wants to pass these to the younger students.

Mrs. Brown was seen talking with her first graders about having things in common with each other and how to make new friends.

After listening to a story, students get with a buddy to see what they have in common.

"He's the person who asks the things we have in common, and if it's something that I have in commono, then I write it down because this is a really special pen," said a student.

"We have in common that we don't like broccoli and we like spaghetti and we like cotton candy," said another student.

This exercise is part of the new curriculum being implemented at the Kyrene elemtentary schools.

"Those topics that they're studying include diversity and inclusion, empathy and critical thinking, communication, problem solving and peer relationships," said Dr. Sandra Laine, Director of Exceptional Student Services.

Students will spend 30 minutes per week talking about these topics.

Dr. Laine says this program in the middle school has shown to improve academics and helped students learn about themselves and others.

"They have that increased ability to manage when they are stressed, when there is some depression or anxiety. The more those social, emotional skills are evident in children, the better off they're going to do," Dr. Laine said.

The district has also added 14 new counselors to its schools, with 22 counselors in total. This will allow students to work one on one through issues they may be going through.