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This back-to-school season brings more mental health resources for students in Paso Robles

District officials said campus safety and mental health are top priorities.
Students in Paso Robles are getting ready to head back to campus to kick off the school year. District officials said campus safety and mental health are top priorities.
Posted at 7:17 PM, Aug 15, 2023

Students in Paso Robles are getting ready to head back to campus to kick off the school year. District officials said campus safety and mental health are top priorities.

It’s time for final touches at Paso Robles High School as students head back to campus.

“Hanging out with my friends again … meeting new teachers,” said Jeston Glass, who will be entering his junior year.  

Kids across the district are eager to kick off the 2023 school year. Both Valeria Zapien and Regina Gallardo are looking forward to learning English as they enter 4th grade and kindergarten.

“We have new interactive whiteboards for all of our t-k through eighth-grade classrooms,” explained Monica Pafumi, who is the principal at Virginia Peterson Elementary School. “Our teachers will be able to interact with them along with students can come up to the board and move things around.”

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is prioritizing mental health.

“We have added behavioral analysts in order to help with our students with behavioral needs,” said Daniela Topjian, Virginia Peterson Elementary student engagement specialist.

Every school will also have a counselor and a "well space."

“That well space is established for students to have a place to have a calmed down area and also a place to just have some fun,” added Pafumi.

Paso Robles School Resource Officer Walter Canizalez told me they are surveying schools across the area and are prepared to address student needs.

“Any issues dealing with social media, some of them, yes, there is vaping. Vaping is very popular,” said Officer Canizalez. “One of the best things we advocate for, though, is relationships also within the homes, whether that be with a parent or guardian because that mitigates a whole slew of issues that comes with just being a teenager.”

School resource officers work closely with the district in specific situations such as the vandalism incident reported last week.

They are also constantly training to respond to a shooting.

“School shootings are a national issue,” said Officer Canizalez. “Myself and one of the other school resource officers are members of the San Luis Regional SWAT team as well, so we do have augmented training in that field; I myself am an active-shooter instructor.”

One of the big tasks is to build community trust.

“Walking through classes there at lunchtime ... they want to come up and talk to us, we're here and available to answer any questions they might have,” said Officer Canizalez

The district said they also allocated more funds for field trips and teachers are already sending in their requests.

The first day of school for students at PRJUSD is Thursday.