- Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Jefferson County Public Schools will offer mental health counseling this year to high-risk students and their families in an effort to decrease barriers to learning and disruptions in the classroom.

The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1sGEDAv) reports the district has hired 15 counselors to help at different schools after principals said in a survey that a main priority is helping high-risk students.

One such counselor will be based at Wheatley Elementary School, where Principal William “B.J.” Bunton said instructional time is lost when teachers are left to deal with such situations.

“A lot of times, children don’t know how to express what they’re going through, so they act out,” Bunton said. “They don’t have the skills and strategies to cope.”

The counselors will help students who experience anxiety, grief and anger issues that aren’t part of routine disciplinary measures.

JCPS counselor specialist Michelle Sircy said the district put the counselors in locations with the largest number of students in need of counseling, but they will travel to other schools if the need arises.

The program will cost $686,145 and it will be evaluated throughout the year and go through a full assessment at the end of it.

Sircy said dealing with issues early can prevent problems later in life.

“I think this is a huge step for JCPS in responding to data and the needs of our students and staff,” Sircy said.

Trunnell Elementary school counselor Paula Cathey said she thinks adding mental health counselors will help students.

“There are times when we recognize there is a need that is greater than I can support,” Cathey said. “We will definitely collaborate and work together, because at the end of the day this support is going to help students so they can be more successful in the class.”

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com