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By Crystal Hayduk

Six parents and two high school students addressed the Chelsea School District Board of Education at their meeting on April 17, in a “call to action” regarding what they defined as a growing problem with addiction among Chelsea teens.

Several parents shared the stories of their current high school students who, over the course of a few months, went from having good grades and being involved in sports to battling substance addiction. A parent said, “Anyone can be caught in this vicious cycle.”

One parent suggested that the addiction problem among Chelsea teens may be larger than the district realizes, although another parent acknowledged that addiction is a growing crisis nationwide.

A student who described herself as a recovering addict with suicidal ideation in the past also spoke about her personal experience. “I didn’t think it was a big deal [to use] because others were doing it.” She said that possibly if she had learned more about the issues, including self-harming, in middle school, she may not have begun engaging in the behaviors.

Another high school student said that her attempts to encourage others who are using substances to seek help has ended in her losing friendships.

A parent asked the school district for help because “…school is where our children spend the majority of their time, sometimes 10 to 12 hours a day—more than they spend with us. The school has a long history of solutions and goal-oriented innovation.”

Parents who spoke are part of a newly formed support group. They invited others to their next meeting at 6:30 p.m. on May 2, at a location still to be determined.

Superintendent Julie Helber responded to the parents, both at the meeting and in an emailed letter. She said that her heart goes out to the families, and commended them for their “courage in speaking…. The District had many preventative services in place prior to my post and we continue to put resources in place to serve our students and families.

“The District partners with SRSLY for drug and alcohol prevention. Along with the members of SRSLY the team includes members from the hospital, Chelsea PD, and other mental health experts. Numerous students are involved in the efforts, as well. We are fortunate to have this partnership and I encourage you to attend our meetings to provide an additional voice and perspective.

“Our efforts in the areas of mental health and substance abuse are at the forefront of our District Wellness initiatives. You were correct in saying that this is not just a Chelsea problem. Efforts across the county, state, and nation continue to increase to keep our youth safe. This provides a good support network to everyone and continues to be a conversation across the county among the superintendents. Specifically, Community Mental Health has partnered with the Chelsea School District to provide resources….

“We look forward to continuing to work with you and our community to seek new ways support our students,” said Helber.

Lee Andrea of Kingscott Architects presented results of the facilities assessment to the board. He described the process of examining each of the buildings to prioritize improvements, and assign a Facilities Condition Index (FCI) to the district. Andrea said that the district is currently considered in good condition for the next five years.

Andrea also highlighted such items as maintaining roofing and paving, and upgrading mechanical and electrical controls to save energy.

Helber said that the bond team had met to identify the top priority projects that should be completed in the next five years. “We want to hold true to the 2009 bond and what we told the voters we would use the money for,” she said.

Shawn Sinacola-Rodriguez, along with two of her AP Literature and Composition students, Carly Critchfield and Anna Vanneste, presented information about the Alumni Arbor at Chelsea High School (CHS).

Funding was obtained through grants from the Chelsea Community Foundation ($5,000) and the Chelsea Education Foundation ($1,500), as well as private donors (totaling $1,600 so far). With assistance from Arbor Knoll, LLC, there is a 100-year vision for a sustainable space that will provide multi-generational, educational, and recreational use.

May 6 is the expected planting day.

More information is available on the project group page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/chsalumniarbor/.

Former graduates of CHS can be included by completing a survey here (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScLzECVyp9RL7fonZnlKTudCjFy40IgyFwdudei079_cMlsrQ/viewform?c=0&w=1).

Persons interested in volunteering can sign up here (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdY4yjHHc8xzxbx2L5LJGZCvxby1vG8fpkMFEP8ZtngyVygMg/viewform?c=0&w=1).

Donations or questions can be emailed to arborclub@chelsea.k12.mi.us with “donation” or “question” in the subject line.

(See related story here: http://chelseaupdate.com/arbor-club-chelsea-high-school-plans-alumni-arbor/).      

In other board news:

District administrators updated the board on current progress on maintaining fiscal responsibility.

The board approved updates to the eighth-grade reproductive health sexually transmitted infection slides.

The school board learned about recommended updates to the honors pre-calculus curriculum and North Creek technology, which are expected to be voted on in May.

Upcoming dates:

The next school board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on May 8 at South Meadows Elementary School, 335 Pierce St.

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2 Responses to “Chelsea Schools: Families Seek District’s Help to Fight Addiction”

  1. Emily Zimmer says:

    Thank you for posting this and helping raise awareness of our fight!!

  2. Steve Zimmer says:

    The Parent support meeting for addictions is at the Chelsea Hospital.