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Fort Bend ISD’s complex scheduling process weakens mental health support for students, officials say

Fort Bend ISD officials say using separate schedules for virtual and on-campus classes offer increased learning opportunities that allow online students to return to campus for band or football and other extracurricular classes.

However, maintaining the complicated system means campus counselors now spend all their time “hand scheduling” classes for the district’s more than 76,000 students. That leaves teachers as the sole mental health support for students, administrators said during a school board meeting Monday, Oct. 19.

When questioned as to what kind of mental health support was available for teachers facing an exponential increase in their work load and stress level, administrators recommended deep-breathing exercises, among other things.

“We have wellness moments that we use to open every meeting,” Assistant Superintendent Diana Sayavedra said. “We employ breathing exercises. We communicate the importance of self-wellness and finding the balance between work and home and our ‘Live Well’ (cell phone) app constantly sends reminders and updates to our employees about was they can do to reduce stress.”

One trustee spoke up to question the approach.


“Not to discount breathing, but it reminds me of what they told me when I was in labor, ‘Just breathe through it,’” trustee Kristin Tassin said. “And that doesn’t always cut it.”

Sayavedra said she and other administrators are also currently evaluating ways to possibly offload some teacher duties to other district staffers in the future.

Trustee Grayle James said she had received a lot of messages from teachers who were feeling overwhelmed and asked if a schedule change to allow teachers some extra down time was a possibility.

Superintendent Charles Dupre said he and his staff would consider it, adding he’d also heard from many teachers struggling with stress and anxiety.

“My consistent message to teachers is to ask the teachers to give themselves grace,” Dupre said. “Because when I talk to teachers and I get the largest outcry from teachers, it’s often teachers who’ve set a very high bar for themselves that they’re unwilling to lower.”

The decision to implement separate schedules for on-campus classes and virtual learning continued to be a source of concern for administrators and trustees during Monday’s meeting. The process requires campus counselors to evaluate each student’s schedule individually and resolve various conflicts between the dual scheduling system such as monitoring class sizes and making adjustments for students with overlapping classes.

The process has been so time-consuming campus counselors have no time for their regular mental health support duties, leaving teachers as the sole support for students. The scheduling process is expected to continue to drain resources from mental health support systems in the coming months as new schedules are drawn for the upcoming semester, according to Pilar Westbrook, who serves as Fort Bend ISD’s Executive Director of Social Emotional Learning and Comprehensive Health.

“We know that our counselors are our tier-one for mental health support, but we won’t acknowledge the fact that they have been inundated with

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