District implements revised mental health curriculum


Scan here to read the Board of Education’s update on Health and PE in the district.

Beginning during the 2022-2023 year, health classes will introduce a revised mental health curriculum. The new curriculum will be taught in grades kindergarten through 12th grade across the district. 

The planning for this new curriculum began in 2020 when the New Jersey state government proposed new health education standards for New Jersey schools to implement. However, various factors caused the curriculum to not take effect until this year. 

A major factor in that delay was the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that the state presented the new curriculum during the pandemic, schools were told that they did not have to update their curriculum until 2022. 

While the state gave guidelines of which standards to update, it was up to the district to figure out how to best implement the new material.

“We, being the curriculum committee, took a look at what we already teach, what they want us to teach, what are the standards now, and how did they change,” Dr. Matthew R. Covington said.

The committee in charge of updating the curriculum also took input from students about what they would like to see in new lessons. Covington believed that talking to students would help to create a course that would benefit students; he didn’t want to create a course that just included what the state required.

“We spoke to a number of students and asked them if they like the topics that are in health, what they would change, how they would change them. The common denominator all the way through was relationships and mental health,” Covington said.

The revised curriculum now includes more lessons pertaining to relationship advice. For example, students will learn how to deal with breakups, how to go from being “just friends” to “more than friends,” and how to deal with the stressors associated with relationships.

For the most part, the mental health lessons that have been taught in previous years will be the same. The new curriculum simply rephrases and updates the wording of these lessons.

However, Covington said that there will be more time in classes spent discussing mental health disorders, coping mechanisms and community resources. The curriculum will educate students on to whom they can reach out in the cases of various mental health situations. 

With the lessons in this revised curriculum, Covington aims to provide students with a multitude of resources in the community. Whereas some students may only think of their parents as resources, these lessons will remind students of all of the people in the community that can help.

As mental health disorders are on the rise among teenagers globally, the district’s goal with these new and revised lessons is to ease the severity of mental health disorders among Cherry Hill students. 

Elaborating on the sequencing of revised lessons, Covington said “The idea is as you go through the sixth through 12th grades, the topics become a little bit more mature, if you will. What you would be covering as a senior is definitely not what you would be covering in seventh grade.”

While all students enrolled in health at a Cherry Hill school will go through this curriculum, students who choose to partake in an online health course will not be taught the revised lessons. The district uses outside online learning companies to provide online courses to students interested in taking courses outside of in-person school, so administrators do not have influence over  the development of that curriculum. 

“I expect that there will be a smooth transition with the implementation of the new curriculum. We have an experienced and talented group of teachers who approach their content area in a very professional manner. I expect that the revised curriculum will be positively received,” said Dr. Joseph Meloche, superintendent of the Cherry Hill Public schools.