Red Deer Public Schools is adding student support rooms to most K-8 schools this fall. (Photo contributed)

Red Deer Public Schools to offer student support rooms this fall

Rooms provide a place for students to address emotions and anxiety in safe setting

Red Deer Public Schools will introduce student support rooms this fall.

The rooms will be overseen by a full-time certified teacher and will be available in most K-8 schools for the next school year.

Student support rooms are described as settings that provide students safe spaces to regulate their feelings. Regulation activities may include release of “big emotions,” exercise, snack breaks, sleep, or any activity allowing for connection with an adult or other students, says Red Deer Public Schools in a news release announcing the addition to its wrap-around programs.

The teacher will use activities to teach social skills, reduce anxiety, and assist students in feeling a sense of belonging, connection, and preparedness for learning. Funding was approved as part of the 2023-24 budget.

“Staff will work hard to ensure that these rooms are a safe and caring space for all students. It is neither a reward or a punishment space, but a tool for any students to use, without stigma, to engage in targeted activities while creating positive connections,” said Nicola Golby, associate superintendent of student services.

“We want to provide a safe space for students to release frustration while maintaining their dignity by allowing for some privacy. This also allows for instruction in the classroom to continue, and provides some additional support to the classroom teacher.”

Golby said initiative was based on feedback from families who said it was needed.

“It was something the division had been piloting prior to COVID-19, found successful as meeting a need, and will be formalized and expanded,” she said.

“We want all students to reach their full potential, and some students might need breaks in the day or extra supports to make their journey through school successful.”

All schools in Red Deer Public are currently equipped with a team providing wrap-around services that includes administrators, educators, community liaison workers or school counsellors, as well as academic support and other services. Services are also provided by speech and language therapists, a contracted psychologist, and there is also help for students who are deaf, hard of hearing or visually impaired.

This year, the division hired three more staff to support mental health and increased counsellor time to help support students. In addition, the division has a partnership with Alberta Health Services for therapists who can be accessed both in school and within the community.

Red Deer Public’s Behaviour Support Team has begun hosting a series of Lunch and Learn presentations at each school to provide an overview of the initiative and to answer staff questions.

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