Sherwood Park, AB. — Thanks to a new grant from Alberta Education, Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) is putting plans in place to launch a new pilot project that has the potential to make a real difference for students throughout the Division. In December, the province awarded EIPS $1.9 million, as part of its mental health grant to address student emotional wellness challenges. EIPS is using the funds to pilot a new Mental Health in Schools project by setting up support centres in every junior high school across the Division.

“The need for enhanced mental health supports was amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sandra Stoddard, the Associate Superintendent for Supports for Students at EIPS. “Over the last year, we’ve seen a higher number of students with mental health challenges. So, the purpose of the support centres is to be there in the moment with students to help address the issues they’re facing, in school and in their lives overall.”

In fact, a recent Division survey revealed more than 60 per cent of students and staff feel their mental health and well-being deteriorated since the onset of COVID-19. The most common conditions: heightened anxiety, stress and dysregulated behaviour—resulting from the prolonged learning disruptions, isolation and health fears. The Division has also observed social-and-emotional developmental delays—attributed to the loss of peer interactions, isolation and limited engagement in social activities.

Through the pilot project, all EIPS junior high schools will house a support centre, featuring a continuum of evidence-based mental health supports and services for students and their families. The centres will act as spaces for students where they can come when they feel overwhelmed and focus on what they’re experiencing in the moment—all under the supervision of an EIPS teacher who’s trained in mental health literacy and supported by the Division’s counselling team. “We want to offer students a school-based space to teach regulation, support students and educate about the importance of advocating for your mental health and well-being,” says Stoddard. “The support spaces are part of a larger Mental Health Strategic Plan that works with students and families to ensure their needs are met.”

Over the past two years, EIPS’ Board of Trustees has invested significant Division resources to address mental health issues for students and staff as part of its post-pandemic recovery plan. It’s also actively advocated at all levels of government about the need for mental health supports for students. “In the last year alone, the Board of Trustees has invested close to $1 million to address student mental health and social-emotional development, and to create both a post-pandemic recovery plan and mental health strategic plan,” says Trina Boymook, the Board Chair of EIPS. “The generous grant from the province means we can expand the work we’ve already done, and leverage new resources, to benefit the thousands of junior high students who face mental health and learning challenges in the wake of COVID-19.”

In addition to Alberta Education, the Mental Health in Schools pilot project is supported by Strathcona County’s Family and Community Services, a collaborative community partner that works with EIPS on several student- and family-focused initiatives. As well, EIPS partners with community-based Solutions Navigators to work with schools to help connect families to other local supports. EIPS will provide more information about the Mental Health in Schools pilot project in the coming weeks. The pilot will run through the end of June 2024.


Elk Island Public Schools is one of Alberta’s largest school divisions, serving approximately 17,460 students in 43 schools. We are proud to be an integral part of our communities, including Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Vegreville, Strathcona and Lamont counties, and the western portion of the County of Minburn.


For more information contact:
Laura McNabb, Director, Communication Services, EIPS 780-417-8204 cell 780-405-4902