CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A new office will be created within the West Virginia Department of Education that will be dedicated to the well-being of the state’s school children.
West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools made the announcement on Tuesday, according to a press release from WVDE.
The release stated that the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Student Support and Well-being (OSSW) brings several initiatives and programs under one umbrella to coordinate services for the whole child.
Officials said that the new office ensures that each student has at least one caring adult that keeps them connected to the school system, which is Superintendent Burch’s top priority.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created major challenges for families and the education community, according to officials, many of the issues facing students and teachers preceded the virus in the Mountain State.
The opioid and substance abuse crisis changed education in significant ways by placing more responsibilities on educators to address needs beyond academics for thousands of children.
The pandemic further stressed systems of support that were working hard to help children and families, officials explained. From nutrition to social-emotional services, schools often represent the only stability in the lives of students and for the community.
The OSSW hopes to bring together initiatives like ReClaim West Virginia, Communities In Schools, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, McKinney-Vento Programs for Homeless Children and Youth, Educational Support for Neglected and Delinquent Youth and professional student support staff such as school nurses, counselors and social workers, to provide a sustained network for child development and well-being.
“We are at a critical time in our state and must be creative, strategic and forward thinking to best nurture and educate our children,” said Superintendent Burch. The school system has to reach beyond core content areas to equip our children with some of the foundational and basic skills they need to be successful.”
While the office is new, the mission of the OSSW has been an established part of the Department. “COVID-19 proved that the need for this office was imperative and had to happen immediately. Education has been forever changed and we cannot use dated delivery systems to address the issues of today.”Superintendent Burch
The OSSW’s collaborative infrastructure will harness resources, best practices, momentum and expertise to prepare the whole child for post-secondary options whether that be education, employment or enlistment.