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Highline Public Schools hiring extra counselors to help students manage stress

Highline Public Schools is using nearly $1 million in emergency federal funds to put additional mental health professionals in schools.

BURIEN, Wash. — Highline Public Schools is hiring extra counselors to help students manage the stress they’ve experienced with remote learning during the pandemic.

“There's some amazing work and learning going on out there and there are just some gut-wrenching, heartbreaking stories of students who are really feeling the strain and the pain of disconnection,” said Susan Enfield, superintendent of Highline Public Schools.

She decided to use nearly $1 million in emergency federal funds to pay for the expansion.

Each school will have at least one mental health professional, regardless of enrollment.

The state currently provides funding for 36 counselors and the district used its own dollars to bring staffing up to 49.5 this year, Enfield said.

Highline is using the federal money to staff 56 counselors next school year.

Beyond that, the state will kick in additional money to keep those counselors on the payroll, Enfield said.

Highline started pairing each student with an adult this mostly virtual school year, just to check in, and the district says those relationships will be key for connecting kids with counselors.

“If that adult sees that a student is not quite themselves, or is saying, ‘I'm sad, I'm angry,’ they can say, ‘you know what, I'm going to connect you with our school counselor so that you can talk about that,’” Enfield said.

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