COVID-19 relief funds put counselors in all Middletown elementary schools

New Middletown Amanda Elementary Counselor Lexie Stelnicki  - 2nd from left - has a recent play-time visit with some 1st graders. Stelnicki - and other Middletown elementary school counselors - no longer have to move from school building to building each class day thanks to federal coronvirus relief funds provided to the city schools. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
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New Middletown Amanda Elementary Counselor Lexie Stelnicki - 2nd from left - has a recent play-time visit with some 1st graders. Stelnicki - and other Middletown elementary school counselors - no longer have to move from school building to building each class day thanks to federal coronvirus relief funds provided to the city schools. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

It’s a first for the city schools

Federal coronavirus relief money is allowing Middletown Schools to help elementary students in a way the district was not previously able to afford by putting counselors in every grade school.

It’s a first for the city schools and district officials hope the new building counselors will help youngsters better navigate the on-going pandemic both academic and emotionally.

The historic number of changes impacting schools and students everywhere since the onset of the coronavirus in March 2020 have been uniquely challenging and even more so for younger children, said Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Elizabeth Beadle.

“Last (school) year our schools spent a quarter in a remote learning setting, two quarters in a hybrid (class schedule) setting and the last quarter in the classroom. It was a big year of change and uncertainty,” said Beadle.

Previous to this school year, the 6,300-student’s eight elementary schools shared counselors who worked multiple buildings each school day.

“Having a school counselor focus on one building only is a huge plus for our students, especially given the past year plus. I think many of us can agree mental health and social-emotional learning is so important, especially during this pandemic.”

Hiring new counselors was made possible by a federal COVID-19 relief funding program made available to schools nationwide.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Grant Program, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act is paying for the additional counselors.

Earlier this year, Middletown officials announced the additional federal money is also helped the district avoid some $2.5 million in previously planned school budget cuts.

ExploreFederal funds will delay $2.5 million in planned cuts for Middletown Schools

And thanks to the ESSER funds, Middletown officials reported last month the city schools were financially in “great shape,” with no need to ask residents for an operating tax hike until at least five more years.

ExploreMiddletown fiscal officer predicts no school operating tax hikes for next half decade

“Counselors are now in our buildings every day to help students with one-on-one meetings, small group social skills sessions and classroom-based lessons for social emotional learning,” said Beadle.

Among the newly hired counselors is Middletown Schools alumna Lexie Stelnicki of Amanda Elementary, who is working in her former grade school.

“I love that I am returning to roots, while also joining as a new Middie,” Stelnicki said.

The pandemic has been particularly hard on some young students and helping them succeed it’s a challenge she welcomes.

“I chose to be a school counselor to help others and to help students struggling with hard times. As a young child, I had some amazing teachers and counselors that helped me in many ways, and I wanted to give back,” she said.

Fellow Middletown native Samantha Minges now spends her entire day at Wildwood Elementary and is grateful to be able to establish deeper, on-going relationships with the students there.

“I became a school counselor because I love working with kids and helping them to learn new skills to be successful. I have known I wanted to be a school counselor since my freshman year of high school because I remember being in elementary and middle school wishing that I had someone at school to talk to about different things going on in my life and so I wanted to become that person for kids,” Minges said.

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