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Student survey: St. Vrain high schools saw overall wellness, culture improve despite pandemic

While struggles with mental health increased, other areas seeing positive trends
SVVSD Admin (3 of 3)
SVVSD administration building

Of the 12 categories the St. Vrain Valley School District asked high school students about in a recent survey, the results remained consistent or trending positively — except for mental health.

The Wellness, Culture and Safety Inventory is given annually to St. Vrain students in grades nine through 12, though it was not administered in 2020 due to the pandemic. Student responses were anonymous and self-reported.

Results for 2021 were presented to the school board on Wednesday. Just over 7,000 students responded, equal to a 70.7% response rate mirroring district demographics, which makes it a fairly accurate representation of high school students across the district.

Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Johnny Terrell explained that the survey administered by the district is similar to the state and national surveys given to high school students.

“What we like about the survey we administer is that we have a little bit more latitude and ability to fashion questions toward our school district and get the results back in real time,” he said.

Students answered 76 questions in 12 categories, including mental health. The questions related to mental health saw an overall 3% decrease in positive responses compared to 2019.

According to the results, 42% of students are comfortable talking about their feelings with other people, down 7%, while 41% of students have experienced sadness or hopelessness for an extended period of time, up 3%.

In the 2021 survey, 13% of students reported having contemplated suicide, the same proportion as 2019. Executive Director of Equity and Community Engagement Olga Cordero said while 13% is still too many students, it is encouraging to see that number has not gone up despite the increased stressors of the last two years.

“I feel like our resources are really kicking in and we’re able to maintain rather than see an increase,” she said.

Cordero added that according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, statewide the number of highschoolers reporting suicidal ideation was at 18.8% in the most recent report.

A number of categories also saw positive improvements. Student substance use across the board has been trending in a positive direction over the past few years.

When it comes to alcohol, 88% of responses reported healthy behaviors, an improvement of 10% since fall 2015. Healthy behaviors with tobacco are moving in a positive direction, up to 94% compared to 88% in 2015, as is marijuana use, with healthy behaviors at 90% compared to 82% in 2015.

According to the survey, 88% of students reported having not consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, an improvement of 6% from 2019, while 94% reported not having used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, a 7% improvement.

When it comes to bullying, 85% of responses were positive with fewer students reporting bullying incidents on school grounds in the last year, though this may have been reduced in part because students weren’t in school as often due to COVID. Cyberbullying reports remained consistent.

Questions related to home and community saw an overall positive change for the first time, increasing from 89% to 91% positive responses. This was attributed in part to a 2% increase in both the number of students who said they felt they had someone to speak with at home about serious problems and who felt safe in their community or neighborhood.

Categories like health and wellness, personal safety and school safety remained relatively consistent.

“A systemic approach to how we conduct business and do our business here in St. Vrain, I believe, really lends to a lot of the positive trends in some of the numbers and how we didn’t lose a lot of ground during this pandemic,” Terrell said.

Cordero highlighted the growing number of support personnel in the district, which includes 97 school counselors and 29.5 interventionists. The district has added 19 counselors in the last five years and nine and a half interventionists.

Those resources are funded through the district’s general fund along with $2.5 million from Medicaid and $3 million through grants.

Terrell planned to present this data to a number of stakeholder groups, including the school board, to get feedback. He added that the data, while anonymized, can be narrowed down to individual schools or demographic groups to help identify specific areas to work on.