ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — With social and emotional needs of students magnified during the course of the pandemic, school leaders throughout Monroe County are discussing the continued mental health needs in and out of the classroom.

Now several months into the school year, administrators remain focused on the mental health needs of students and staff, relying on continued partnerships with community agencies and other resources to provide a supportive environment extending beyond the school day.

“We have to partner with parents and community organizations because it’s not just about learning math and English, but truly supporting the whole child and the whole student,” said Tom Putnam, superintendent for Penfield Central Schools.

At a time when mental health remains at the forefront in schools, administrators say education based on site, and off, is critical.

“So they can have that support service during the day as well as evenings, and those families who lack the ability to have transportation or can’t leave work, their child can still get those services,” said Lori Orologio, superintendent for Churchville-Chili Central Schools.

In a youth risk behavior survey studying 19,000 students across Monroe County, leaders say 32 percent reported feeling sad or hopeless daily, or for more than two weeks at a time.

Diagnoses of a mental illness, they say, typically don’t occur until age 14 at the earliest.

“Trauma and impact are like a ripple effect. You drop something in the water, the ripples go out. That’s what happens for students and family systems. Everything that happens in a variety of different places impacts that system and impacts our student,” said Ken Sharp of Monroe-Orleans BOCES.

A successful and supportive learning environment, leaders say, begins with the hiring process.

“We’re always hiring in schools and really making sure that we’re finding the best folks to come in, join the team with that desire to work with students and be supportive in a supportive atmosphere,” said Putnam.

Leaders also highlighted Monroe County’s trauma and grief consortium, one of the few of its kind in New York State, which offers tailored resources for students, parents and staff.

To watch ACT For Educations webcast, including this discussion, visit their website.