WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County Public School System is trying to build up its infrastructure and offer students more mental health support its budget proposal.
Superintendent Cathy Moore is asking the Wake Board of Education for an additional $16.3 million for a multi-year plan, which includes an increase in the number of counselors, psychologists and social workers.
"This was an acute need before the pandemic," said Moore. "As the pandemic enters its second year, the need for counselors, psychologists and social workers is now painfully obvious."
Wake County is well below the national and statewide average for counselor-to-student ratio.
The American School Counselor Association recommends, at most, there should be one counselor for every 250 students.
Wake counselors are caring for far more students:
- 1:424 for elementary schools
- 1:351 for middle schools
- 1:378 for high schools
"Those (numbers) are high," said UNC Health Assistant Professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Dr. Christina Cruz.
Cruz said these disparities are usually present in densely populated communities, such as Wake, and that now, more than ever, children needs emotional support.
"Kids are just not as socialized as usual," said Cruz "Kids have had a harder time being a part of a routine and are just having more behavioral difficulties in general, so increasing this infrastructure can really support these kids who more likely than not have increased rates of mental health struggles and really need that extra support to do so."
Chair Sutton told ABC11 WCPSS passed a budget Tuesday evening. The board will be asking county commissioners for a $28 million funding increase.
Commissioners will review the manager's budget that was presented to them, hold public hearings and vote on a budget.