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Monroe To Hold All-Staff Gathering Focusing On Mental Wellness Before New School year

About 1,000 Monroe County School District employees are expected to gather Monday at Marathon High School.
About 1,000 Monroe County School District employees are expected to gather Monday at Marathon High School.

Across Florida, school is starting with new attention to school safety and security. In the Keys, that means more than increased police protection.

All of the Monroe County school district employees are set to gather at Marathon High School Monday. That's about 1,000 people who work at 16 schools.

They're going to get an all-day training focusing on mental wellness.

"We continue to believe that's the single most important aspect of school safety and security," said Monroe Superintendent Mark Porter. "The school hardening, the on-campus officers, all that stuff is at the end of the timeline."

Intervening early to help students who are having problems can prevent more serious incidents later on, Porter said.

The gathering will include everyone who works for the district — not just teachers, but also custodial staff, bus drivers and office staff.

"It's not like we're expecting to train everybody to be counselors," Porter said, but that so everyone in the district is aware of what signs to look for, and the resources they can turn to for help.

That's true not only in dealing with students but also their fellow staff members.

Monroe schools have had this sort of all-staff gathering before, but this is the first time it's focused on mental health, Porter said.

The impetus was the increased focus on school safety at the shootings that killed 17 people last February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

But mental wellness is also a concern for a community still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Irma last September.

"It's still very much with us. People can only endure so much," Porter said. "The idea that one year later, that things are magically OK, is really not the case."

Classes start for Monroe County students on Wednesday.

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