North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

M-PHS continues moving forward

 

Christopher Andersson

Construction workers continue work on the new M-PHS commons on Oct. 14.

The Marysville School District hopes to continue moving forward with student healing and support programs that started as a result of the Oct. 24, 2014 Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting.

The shooting which killed five students is now approaching it's second anniversary.

"Our efforts this Oct. 24 will be focused on letting every student know that no matter what they are feeling, everyone working in their school is available to talk, and is committed to keeping them comfortable, safe and secure," said Emily Wicks, coordinator of communications and public relations at the Marysville School District.

There will be no district-wide events this year, said Wicks, but school staff are prepared to provide help through the day.

"Teachers and staff have been provided with information on how to best communicate with students on this day, and will let their students know they are available to talk. We will also encourage students to talk with their parents or other trusted adults in their family," she said.

Wicks said district officials hope they can continue to provide the support that each student needs.

One of the ways the district is moving forward with support is the new M-PHS commons/lunch area which officials think will be finished within a couple of months.

The district received $5 million from the Washington state legislature in addition to matching funds to help construct a new building so the site of the shooting would be removed from the campus.

Greg Dennis, director of facilities for the district, said the construction is currently on schedule and they hope to open the new building for students by winter break "at the latest," he said.

"This will give students a fresh start, a new normal," said Dennis.

"I think it will be important that those who want to get together as a group for lunch will have that place again," he said.

In addition to providing a new lunchroom for M-PHS students, it will provide another large venue for the community, said Dennis.

The construction of the commons is the most visible of the district's changes, but they also hope to continue their mental health outreach.

Currently they have more counselors and advisors than they've ever had before, said Joshua Webb, director of counseling at the district.

"We want this to be an ongoing culture, not just a response to the shooting," he said.

Organizations like Victim Support Services and grant funds are currently paying for therapists and student advisors who help with drug and alcohol abuse issues.

With grant-funded items though, you have to go out and re-apply for them every year, said Webb, and the district wants to find a sustainable model to continue their support past that.

"If a student has some type of immediate need, drugs, depression, trauma, some other mental health problem, education becomes not important for them," said Webb.

"If we help them with those issues, they can turn their effort back on improving themselves and looking at long-term goals like college," he said.

Students have a hard time accessing services outside the school, so Webb hopes to bring as many school-based services as he can to the district, including drug/alcohol counseling, medical screenings, support groups and housing and basic needs support.

The district has partnered with the University of Washington's SMART (School Mental Health Assessment Research and Training) center to help staff have a deeper understanding of trauma.

"And when we think of the word 'trauma' here, we think of the shooting, but it's a much more broad concept then that," said Webb, who said it can come from a troubled home life or any number of other problems.

Webb said the research is clear that the more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) a child has, the poorer they perform in school.

"We have to figure out how we support those students with the highest ACEs," he said.

Wicks said that the district will always remember those who lost their life on that day nearly two years ago.

"We will never forget the young lives lost on that tragic day, but we honor them by taking care of each other and by moving forward together as a community," she said.

 

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