East Grand Forks may be “ahead of the game” as it works to address student mental health topics, the district’s social-emotional learning coordinator told the East Grand Forks School Board on Monday, Nov. 8, during its regular meeting.

Jennifer Modeen, whose official title is MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports)/SEL (social-emotional learning) coordinator, said it’s important to consider the whole student, including emotional health, when considering what makes an excelling student.

Modeen recently was hired by the East Grand Forks School District and previously served as the school social worker and homeless liaison in the Grand Forks district.

Since Modeen was hired in August, the district has taken several steps to address student mental health, including forming a mental health team across all schools and establishing adult social-emotional learning training for every building in the district.

Modeen said students may “ebb and flow” between being “in crisis” – dealing with anxiety, very low mood, poor sleeping habits, etc. – and excelling – being cheerful, energetic and high performing. She said it is important to speak about this with students and give them the tools to deal with those ebbs and flows.

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“The stressors of life will happen to you,” she said. “We cannot escape that for you but what we can give you is tools, positive tools to deal with the things that happen to you that will really contribute to your overall mental health.”

Modeen added that it is important to support teachers and their social and emotional skills, too.

In other news Monday, board members received an update on the district’s current COVID-19 situation. Superintendent Mike Kolness said there are 17 total positive cases in the district; of those, 16 are students and one is a staff member. There are 73 students in quarantine across the district.

Kolness also noted that the district is in the process of reviewing the new rule from the Biden administration that would require employers with more than 100 employees to ensure workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing, beginning in January.

There have already been legal challenges to the mandate. The state of North Dakota joined a federal lawsuit led by Missouri, which asks a federal judge to declare the vaccine mandate unconstitutional. A similar lawsuit, led by Texas, was filed in another district.