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Be Well

Be Well

  • "Be Well" originally appeared in the January 2024 health and wellness issue of COMO Magazine.

The pursuit of wellness in Columbia Public Schools.

The health and wellness of employees and scholars play a pivotal role in the overall success of Columbia Public Schools. 

Success in the educational environment requires both academic commitment and a commitment to wellness. Academic success is intricately linked to the physical and mental well-being of those involved. Prioritizing health and wellness contributes to a positive and productive learning environment.

For Our Employees

Maintaining good health is essential for sustaining the demanding nature of the education profession. Long hours, high levels of stress, and the constant need to adapt to evolving educational landscapes can take a toll on their well-being. Implementing wellness programs that address physical fitness, stress management, and mental health is crucial. Encouraging regular exercise, providing resources for mental health support, and promoting work-life balance can significantly enhance the overall health of educators.

That’s why our district has invested in initiatives to support wellness. The district has a wellness coordinator who works to evaluate wellness and address areas that can help cultivate healthier environments that contribute to the well-being of scholars and staff.  Additionally, the district has a wellness committee made up of 20-25 people from inside and outside of the organization who are working to review and address wellness matters.

Columbia Public Schools’ Be Well campaign for employees encourages fitness through friendly challenges and activities, including a walking challenge to stay fit through the holidays. Several years ago, the district also began working with HeartSpace Clinic to provide stress management programming for employees. 

Additionally, creating a supportive and collaborative work environment can positively impact teachers’ mental and emotional well-being. Opportunities for professional development, mentorship programs, and open communication channels can foster a sense of community among educators. Feeling valued and supported not only contributes to individual well-being but also enhances the overall morale within the educational institution. In improving the district’s recruitment and retention plan, the district is also working to establish affinity groups for employees to connect over commonalities and interests.

For Our Scholars

Similarly, the health and wellness of scholars are fundamental to their academic success and personal development. A healthy lifestyle contributes to improved cognitive function, better concentration, and enhanced learning capabilities. Our schools promote physical well-being by encouraging regular physical activity through recess, physical education, athletics, and special programming in schools. For example, several schools have stress management programming during finals week that includes yoga and mindfulness. Additionally, CPS provides nutritious meals and a comprehensive health curriculum that includes educating students about the importance of a balanced diet.

I’m especially proud of our work to establish a school-based primary care health center to create greater access to health care for our students. The clinic, located in the Field Center Building, will open in January 2024 and will be operated in partnership with Clarity, which is affiliated with Burrell Behavioral Health. The collaboration is the result of a partnership created to develop a comprehensive system of school-based primary health care services to promote and ensure the physical health care of students.

Services provided through the health center are being offered in addition to the health services already offered by CPS, including school nurses and individualized nursing services provided to students with special needs.

Primary care and counseling services available to all students will include:

  • Acute visits (sore throat, fever, sprained ankle, etc.) 
  • Preventative visits
  • Sports physicals
  • Vision services
  • Free vaccines through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program
  • In-house lab services (strep tests, influenza, etc.)
  • Reference lab services
  • Documentation of the visit provided to the child’s primary care physician (PCP), if not a Clarity patient
  • Behavioral assessments and evaluations
  • Referrals to counseling sessions for individuals and family 
  • Referrals to trauma-focused counseling with licensed or licensed-eligible counselors specializing in trauma
  • Referrals to substance use disorder counseling services and treatment

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall wellness for students. Academic pressures, social challenges, and personal issues can contribute to stress and anxiety. CPS works to prioritize mental health resources and supports, destigmatize seeking help, and offer counseling services through the district or referral to one of our valued partners. 

Prioritizing physical and mental well-being through wellness programs, a supportive work culture, and a comprehensive approach to health education can contribute to a positive and successful learning experience for scholars and a healthy and productive work environment for employees. By investing in the health and wellness of those within Columbia Public Schools, we can lay the foundation for academic success, personal development, and lifelong well-being for our current and future citizenry.  

Dr. Brian Yearwood

Dr. Brian Yearwood is the Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools

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