New office to oversee ‘whole child’ approach to West Virginia’s school students

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The eight people who make up the new state Department of Education Office of Student Support and Well-being will begin working together on site for the first time on Monday.

Clayton Burch, state superintendent of schools, announced the formation of the office soon after he was permanently hired for the position to bring together existing programs focused of the overall wellness of students.

Superintendent Clayton Burch

“It is about maximizing the resources we have at hand,” Burch told MetroNews about OSSW.

“These eight individuals are definitely experts in their field, but bringing them together as one solid team, we believe, is going to make a heck of a difference on improving the social and emotional well-being of children.”

The Office of Student Support and Well-being included the following programs:

– ReClaim West Virginia, dealing with students directly affected in the opioid epidemic;

– Communities In Schools, a comprehensive approach to at-risk students which First Lady Cathy Justice has championed;

– Graduation 2020, focused on developing quality graduates in West Virginia;

– the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, developing educational opportunities outside of school hours;

– 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.

For Burch, the new office idea crystallized during the months of COVID-19 school closures.

Work has continued to keep students connected to the school system which, for many, serves as a stabilizing force.

“The more and more we went through the pandemic focusing on this idea of one caring adult per child, it just seemed to make sense that we take all those initiatives, package them into one office umbrella, if you will, at the Department of Education so we can really make the most out of these initiatives for the children of West Virginia,” Burch said.

No new positions were created for the office which was formed through realignments at no additional costs to the DOE, according to Burch.

His ultimate goal was a sustained network for child development and social and emotional support for West Virginia’s students.

“Those things have to be taken care of and supported if we expect them to do well in the classroom in a learning environment,” Burch said.

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