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School leaders stress student mental health to governor


Last updated 8/25/2021 at 6:30am

The mental health of students should be addressed more regularly by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, according to a letter school superintendents sent to him and to the state Department of Health. 

Grand Coulee Dam School District Superintendent Paul Turner is one of 40 superintendents in Washington that signed an Aug. 18 letter to Inslee in response to a July 28 DOH update requiring masks for all K-12 students and staff. 

“OUR STUDENTS NEED HOPE,” the letter starts. “Coming off an unmasked summer of Washington State being ‘fully open’, our students are now going to be coming back to our schools with a continued mask mandate and other mitigation strategies.” 

“We are not health care professionals, and you have never made it clearer than you have now that the updated guidance holds the power of law. Further, Superintendent Reykdal has made it clear to us that if we do not follow these requirements our funding apportionment will be withheld, and further, that this is not a local decision in any way.”

“Schools play a crucial role in the health of our communities, and being educators and not health care professionals, we will follow these requirements as best we can in the midst of a very challenging situation. We did our very best last year, and in the midst of a continued pandemic and impactful Delta variant, we will continue to do our best heading into this school year.”

“With all of this said, we have said for years in education that we are going to focus on the ‘whole child’. We know from talking with our students, surveying our students, and analyzing the state-wide COVID-19 student survey (6/28/2021) that many, and in some cases the majority, of our students are struggling deeply with their mental health and well-being. Given this, we are asking that you seriously consider:

• Any time you hold a press conference or update schools on data around COVID/Delta

Variant, you include multiple metrics on the status of mental health and well-being of

school aged children.

• Any time that requirements for schools are updated, include current mitigation strategies

on the mental and emotional impact this pandemic is having on our students.

• Establish a specific metric to apply to LOCAL communities establishing a benchmark

for when the masks can come off and other mitigation strategies are no longer needed.

This will provide HOPE for our students and will give our communities a goal to

rally around.

Thank you for your serious consideration of this request. We appreciate all that you are

doing, as well as your ongoing leadership, as you help us navigate these difficult times.”

Mental health among students is a big topic currently. 

​​The American Academy of Pediatrics website explains their stance on the importance of in-person learning towards mental health.

“Remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages, and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents,” their website says. “Schools and school-supported programs are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction; social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/occupational/speech therapy, mental health services, health services, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits.”



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