SAN ANTONIO – The role of social workers at Harlandale Independent School District has always been crucial -- especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The social workers serve as a link between family, schools and community services.
The district hired nine additional social workers were hired this school year, and officials said it’s helped during these challenging times.
“Unfortunately, we did lose a teacher this weekend, and Brian had his team of social workers and counselors available for that campus,” said Harlandale ISD Director of Student Support Services and Special Programs Nadine Wolfe.
Brian Jaklich, the social worker coordinator at Harlandale ISD, said the role of a social worker is to remove all the barriers that prevent a student from being successful in school. He said that includes from providing basic resources to families to individual and group counseling.
“We send a crisis team, we have three different teams made up of counselors and social workers, and they rotate as situations happen,” Jaklich said.
Jacklich said students are dealing with a number of issues that makes it difficult to focus on school.
“We see a lot of depression just because in grief issues and loss,” Jaklich said.
Last school year the district had 15 social workers. This school year, they have a total of 24.
“This was in play before we even knew about the pandemic because we start planning usually a year ahead of time,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said the community has a lot of need and relies on the social workers and counselors.
She said the percentage rate of economically disadvantaged students in Harlandale ISD is 89%.
Jaklich said during the pandemic, social workers have been doing home visits and connecting families to different resources.
“The initial plan might be just to get them the resources they need to get by financially and economically. If it’s just food or some clothes or to help with funeral arrangements or to contact them or connect them with people in the community who can help them with those things. We also do a lot of referrals for counseling,” Jaklich said.
Recently, the district opened a counseling center called the Harlandale Care Center. Jaklich said they have community partners that do mental health counseling and substance abuse counseling.
“One of our partners is the Children’s Bereavement Center and so we refer a lot of students there,” Jaklich said.