St. Johns County principals say high schools need more mental health counselors, but they are hard to find

St. Johns County School District headquarters in downtown St. Augustine. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Anxiety and mental health issues have increased among St. Johns County high school students during the pandemic.

That’s what two principals told the school board Wednesday morning.

Principals from St. Johns County schools spoke with the school board during school improvement presentations about the successes and the challenges seen in the past few years, including the difficulty hiring teachers and students’ mental health.

One principal said her school needs mental health counselors. Right now, one counselor can be tasked with helping up to 500 students, said Lisa Kunze, Nease High School principal.

“We’ve seen an increase over the last several years, but just with the COVID I just know at Nease it is unbelievable the number of kids, the parent emails like I don’t know what to do with my child and I can’t get them up and to come to school and like it’s really we’ve seen a big jump,” Kunze said.

But another principal noted the same worker shortages seen in other industries are affecting school counselors.

“Whether it is you know, mental health counseling, counselors, even if we were to say, hey, let’s get some extra counselors in the schools, I’m not sure we could find them,” said Jay Willets, Tocoi Creek High School principal.

The school district issued a statement for News4JAX following the meeting:

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