More school counselors needed post-Pandemic, APS offers signing bonus

MARIETTA, Ga. - Since the pandemic and an increase in school shootings, there's been an increased demand for school counselors.

Since Monday, school counselors have been on site at Marietta Middle school to help students cope with the shooting death of their 25-year-old science teacher, Jason Ogbomoh.

The community has been devastated, leaving students in an even greater need of psychological help.

<div>Jason Ogbomoh (Marietta Middle School)</div>
Jason Ogbomoh (Marietta Middle School)

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one school psychologist per every 500 students, but school psychologists will tell you, that's easier said than done.

"We are spread really thin," Atlanta Public Schools (APS), lead psychologist, Jaceta Fevrier said.

<div>Atlanta Public Schools says theres been an increased demand for counselors ever since the pandemic.</div>
Atlanta Public Schools says theres been an increased demand for counselors ever since the pandemic.

Since 2020, APS says it has steadily worked to increase the number of school psychologists in the district to 45. School representatives say those efforts have reduced the school psychologist-to-student ratio from about one to 2,000 students to one and about 1,300. Still, the district says it and the vast majority of school districts nationwide are determined to achieve the industry-recommended ratio.

"There's lots of services that we can offer and provide and a lot of really helpful things that we can do. However, there's not enough of us, and oftentimes we're not able to provide the level of service that we would like across the board because we just have so many schools, or so many different issues," she said.

The shortage has been a concern for years, but the pandemic exacerbated the need.

APS, like school districts all across the country, has gotten creative about how to help students with mental health.

They have a $5,000 hiring bonus that's been in place for the past two years.

APS also offers a paid internship program through a partnership with Georgia State and Rutgers Universities and hosts several recruiting events nationwide.

Fevrier says the work school psychologists do is invaluable. As with physical ailments, she says prevention is better than finding a cure.

"One of my favorite things about being a school psychologist and being able to work with students when they're so young is that we are able to catch these things early before a lot of set patterns come in," she said.