KENAI, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska school district has hired six counselors in its elementary schools, making progress toward its goal to provide more support to its students, a district superintendent said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent John O’Brien presented during a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday to provide insight into the district’s goals, Peninsula Clarion reported.

The district is about halfway through their five-year strategic plan to empower students to positively shape their future, O’Brien said.

The plan includes the introduction of personalized learning in peninsula schools and providing social and emotional learning to students that need it, he said.

“Unfortunately, we do have many of our students who don’t have perfect home lives,” O’Brien said. “They may have families that have experienced a tremendous amount of trauma, whether it’s something as simple as divorce or drug addiction within the family. Perhaps they have a parent who has died or they’re dealing with some other sort of adverse experience.”

Social and emotional learning teaches kids resilience and how to process trauma and other emotional challenges in healthy ways, district officials said.


The plan stems from an increase in suicide risk assessments and referrals by staff members to the Office of Children’s Services for suspected neglect or abuse, officials said.

During the presentation, O’Brien said the school district handled 204 suicide risk assessments and 258 referrals last year compared to the 47 assessments and 153 referrals in 2013.

The school district has appropriated more than $2 million from their undesignated general fund that included funding for the elementary school counselors, officials said.

During O’Brien’s 15 years working in the school district, there haven’t been any counselors at the elementary school level, he said.