Horry County education leaders discuss increasing guidance counselors in elementary schools

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Some educators for Horry County Schools say elementary schools may not have enough guidance counselors to properly help students.

Some Horry County parents say their children need better access to mental health care in schools.

“I want to see my son be successful,” said David Warner, who’s son has autism. “I want to see my son have the right supports put in place, so that he can be the best that he can possibly be.”

Warner has been actively pushing the HCS board to add more Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapists in the district’s schools.

With a growing school district and many different types of mental illnesses, HCS is looking at how to improve the help it gives to its youngest students.

“Typically, over the years, were behaviors that we saw in high school or in middle school and we’re seeing more behaviors displayed at the elementary school level,” said superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey.

During early budget talks at a joint facilities and finance committee meeting Monday, HCS leaders discussed how guidance counselors are spread across the district. Velna Allen, who’s the chief officer of student services for HCS, says more full-time guidance counselor positions are needed in elementary schools. On average, each rehabilitative behavioral health services (RBHS) counselor in an Horry County elementary school works with about 23.6 students.

That’s almost at the state-recommended limit of 25 students per counselor.

“These are our kids with our highest risk and our highest needs who truly have mental health issues,” Allen said. “We’re getting dangerously close to maxing out. We do have waiting lists at some schools.”

HCS also says it has 15 outside counselor positions from the Waccamaw Center for Mental Health. Two of those positions are currently vacant.

The budget for next school year is expected to be passed in the spring.

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