School systems and health professionals are anticipating that mental health and social-emotional wellness will have a big role in returning to school this fall.
According to Harrison Schools Special Education Curriculum Coordinator Daryle Maher, this year’s behavior and trauma professional development and trainings for educators is more important than ever because of the trauma, and social, emotional and academic needs of students after being out of school for so long.
“Our county’s former and current superintendents have been large supporters in providing additional support and professional development regarding student behavior, mental health and wellness,” he said.
“We have known students have needed this additional support and intervention. It just seemed more prominent than normal because we’ve been out of school. But this has been in the works for a while and certainly is meaningful.”
In addition to training school staff on student and employee mental health and response to trauma, the county also plans to add additional mental health clinics to Robert C. Byrd High School, Washington Irving Middle School and Nutter Fort and Wilsonburg elementary schools.
These additions will join Liberty High School, Mountaineer Middle School, Adamston and North View elementary schools as the only schools in the county with mental health school-based clinics.
“We are hoping that we can keep up with the mental health needs,” said Dr. Kevin Junkins of Community Care of West Virginia. “None of us know what’s going to happen when we open back up and students return and that’s the big thing — none of us know what tomorrow is going to hold in the pandemic. People are really anxious about it and there’s a lot of uncertainty in it.”
Junkins said it is the hope of Community Care to provide support for the students who need it, but his concern is identifying students who may be under the radar and having anxiety.
“Right now, anxiety is the normal — there are people that had no problems before the pandemic, but now meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder,” he said. “I think it’s going to be very important that we’re flexible, we reduce stigma in the schools and we let the children know that we’re there and if they are struggling or having a hard time, it’s OK to talk to us and let us know.”
For many years, Doddridge County Schools has engaged with students to create an atmosphere where they feel safe and nurtured, according to Superintendent Adam Cheeseman.
“Our emphasis on the Holistic Child is now more important than ever before,” he said. “Our Holistic Child Department has worked over the summer to stay in contact with students, fostering the relationships they developed last year and our teachers have received additional training over the summer regarding mental health services.”
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