Schools are closed because of the coronavirus, but when they reopen students could be coming back to school to less counselors and social workers.
The 2020 – 2021 budget proposal will scale back several programs and cut more than 200 full time positions throughout the district.
As part of the staff reductions 192 teachers would be cut and 32 social workers would be laid off. The district is trying to close a 60 million dollar deficit for the next school year.
According to the budget proposal, cuts to counselors and social workers would save the district 2.6 million dollars.
Jini Figueroa is one of 5 social workers at Edison Technical High School. Under the proposed budget, that number could be reduced to 2 full-time and one part-time equivalent.
“That is going to have such an impact on the high need spaces that exist in our community. That is a significant disservice,” said Figueroa.
School social workers are trained mental health professional. They play a number of roles throughout the school day. They help with mental health and behavioral concerns, help to create plans for students with disabilities, and often work with students’ families connecting them to community resources.
“You come here and you engage with children and develop relationships with children that are like no other. And you have babies who come back to you and say miss, you helped me through a rough time, and I didn’t realize how rough it was until I got through it,” said Figueroa.
Social workers can have confidential discussions with students to help them through the daily challenges they face.
“Students share things with school social workers that they share with no one else. School social workers are like the secret keepers,” said Figueroa.
High poverty in Rochester creates high demand for social workers. Ashley Holland is a social worker at the Virgil I. Grissom School No. 7. She says that the high demand keeps her busy.
“It’s go from the time you get there until the time you leave,” said Holland.
The social workers say the ratio of social workers to students in need is already low, and that budget cuts would ultimately hurt students.
“That ratio is so inconsistent with the level of need that exists there in that space,” said Figueroa.
The cuts put social workers’ ability to make that personal connection needed to help students at risk.
“You need that constant trust to build relationships. To do that you need to have consistency. And it’s devastating if they come back in September and their social worker is not there,” said Holland.