Welcome to Hopewell Valley Regional School District! Please read the items below to learn about our areas of focus.
The loss of a young person by suicide is heartbreaking and impacts our entire community. We recognize that individuals approach death differently and, as a school district, we do our best to support our students and staff. When a loss occurs, we follow the guidance of the Traumatic Loss Coalition and resources such as the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. We can never do enough to raise awareness around suicide and mental health, and we will continue our work to support the students of Hopewell Valley. Together, our goal is to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and to make sure anyone who needs support receives it.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased in nearly every state, including New Jersey. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention identifies depression as the leading cause of suicide in children between the ages of 10-17; however, depression is also among the most treatable of all mood disorders. The best way to prevent suicide is through early detection, diagnosis, and vigorous treatment of depression and other mental health issues, including addiction. Having someone to confide in and speak with is also a vital factor.
Please talk to your children and make sure they can identify an adult who they feel comfortable speaking to; no one should suffer in silence. Our school staff is available during school hours, but as summer approaches, it is even more important for students to have strong connections outside of school as well. Community organizations like our Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance and faith-based organizations provide excellent resources for families looking for ways to support their children. I have included additional resources below.
Hopefully, you have received my Call to Action letters raising awareness regarding supports for student mental health and presentations for parents/guardians. Addressing and supporting the mental health of our students remains a focus for our district. Our programming includes instruction about yoga and mindfulness, suicide prevention and resiliency, mental health disorders and resources, and the processing associated with grief, death and dying, as well as presentations from groups such as Minding Your Mind and the use of therapy dogs from Attitudes in Reverse. In September, we held a daytime program for our students and an evening program for parents regarding suicide and student mental health.
Our website has a Help and Hope link with mental health and suicide prevention resources. Our anonymous tip line is also available to alert us regarding any concern you may have regarding a student. Please contact our tip line via telephone 609-737-4000 x 8477 (TIPS) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For an emergency, please call 911.
As a district, we remain committed to ending the stigma surrounding mental health. We will continue our work with teachers, guidance counselors, and staff to support the mental health of our students. As a community, we must work to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health and make sure anyone who needs support receives it.
DISTRICT SAFETY, SECURITY AND COMMUNICATION
Over the course of this school year, you will see improvements to all school entrances and updates to our entrance practices. We are working with local and county-wide officials to review our response to emergencies and provide more training to our staff. Communication is essential in emergencies and we have updated emergency preparedness to include generators so that all school buildings can function during an emergency. In the event of an actual emergency (lockdown, evacuations or fire), families will be notified immediately via an automated system and will then receive follow-up communications with specific details. These proactive steps are part of a concerted effort to provide our students and staff with the safest environment possible.
CONTINUING OUR EFFORTS TOWARD STUDENT CONTENT MASTERY
As part of our multi-year plan to review grading practices and ensure student content mastery, this year we are piloting second-chance learning opportunities in all classes in grades 6-12. Every student, in every class, will be able to redo or retake selected assignments. This is a pilot, so there will be differences between departments as we review the effectiveness of the pilot. We are excited to take this step and we will share more details after the start of the school year.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING / MINDFULNESS
We are refining our social-emotional learning programs by aligning our efforts with the CASEL framework and exploring restorative justice practices, particularly with our elementary students. We will continue to observe a “Mindfulness Minute” in each school where no announcements are made, no technology used and no talking among staff or students. It is my hope that this work, coupled with our continuing work on equity, will develop stronger, more resilient students.
SUSTAINABILITY/GREEN SCHOOL EFFORTS
Reducing our carbon footprint remains an area of focus. In addition to the installation of high-efficiency lighting and HVAC units, we have partnered with the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHOVS) to expand our outdoor classrooms and plant meadows that require minimal maintenance. Four of our schools were recently certified by the Sustainable Jersey program for our efforts. We are also trying to recognize students and staff who are making a difference through our Eco Warrior program. As we work to eliminate plastic straws in our cafeterias, we will also be encouraging students to reduce the use of single-use plastics such as bottled water. To date, we have installed over 70 filtered bottle filling stations in our schools.