MARYLAND – With spring underway, it is the busiest time of the year for guidance counselors. However, helping students prepare for college is just part of what they handle on a daily basis.
"We certainly could use more counselors to help our kids and families," says Lori Batts, supervisor of guidance and counseling in the Wicomico County School District.
In some Wicomico County high schools, such as Bennett High School, there are four guidance counselors that each has over 400 students. In Somerset County, the ratios are a little smaller, varying between 270 and more than 300 students per counselor. However, the numbers still exceed the ideal recommendation by the American School Counselors Association, which is 250 students to 1 counselor.
Now, schools like Wicomico High School, say they have their counselors stretched thin.
"Not only do they have the college application process, scholarships are a big piece at this time right now, they are also scheduling kids for next school year and helping them make the best choices for what they want to do when they leave high school," says Batts. "Plus the AP testing, park testing, HSA testing, not only are they a part of administering and scheduling all of those tests but helping students and parents understand them."
"We also deal with what students deal with every day," says Kurtis Thomas, a guidance counselor at Wicomico High School. "We work with students who have social, emotional issues, a lot of times some mental health issues as well, and also with the issues they're dealing with at home."
Batts says in Wicomico County, it is more essential than ever that students can have access to their counselors.
"Kids need a professional guidance counselor to help them with their career choices and the stresses of just being a teenager everyday."
"We have students coming from different schools because they do not have a sufficient place to live, we see that a lot, the poverty level is very high," says Thomas. "We do what we can to support those students with those needs."
School officials are now hopeful about a bill in the Maryland General Assembly, that would require every public school in Maryland to meet the 250 to 1 ratio by 2020. Batts says although meeting that quota is not currently feasible, a growing workload is making it more necessary.
"I would love to see that happen," says Batts.
"It would balance things out for us, each counselor, and give us more time to do things that we need to do," says Thomas. "It would give us the time to work with our students on an individual basis, that's the key, that's what were here for."
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