According to the American School Counselor Association, a school should have no more than 250 students per student counselor. The good news is that this ratio has narrowed to its lowest margin since 1986 – 430 to 1, but obviously it’s still well above the recommended ratio.

As the pandemic and school closures have exacerbated student mental health needs, however, potential massive budget cuts loom on the horizon. That would be unacceptable, says NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

“When school buildings are reopened, it must be an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Eskelsen García said. “Threatening furloughs and layoffs mean class sizes will balloon — all while we need to maintain social distancing for public safety — and already overworked counselors will be stretched even thinner as kids grapple with mental health issues worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.”

There’s no guarantee yet that students and educators in Kathy Reamy’s district will even be returning to school in the fall. They’re not alone. But whether remote learning continues or school doors reopen, student progress will depend on how we support their emotional and mental health.

“This pandemic will change people forever,” Reamy says. “We will need more counselors in schools, more clubs and activities that address social/emotional health, and more training for the staff to help them recognize and address the difficult emotions experienced by both students and staff. In the absence of things in place to better serve the emotional needs of our school communities, our students’ education will suffer.”