CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Students heading back to school may need more than school supplies or a mask. Some will need some help managing the social and emotional challenges of switching back to in-person classes.
Last school year, students abruptly switched to virtual learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sudden changes with the pandemic revealed the need for additional student support.
Chesapeake Public Schools recently added a new position geared to help students, staff, and parents with the emotions of going back to school.
Tawana Fortune, a 30-year school psychologist, will lead the charge as the “Supervisor of Strategic Initiatives: Equity and Social-Emotional learning (SEL)“ at CPS. Fortune will work with school social workers, phycologists, and counselors to help students transition.
“Who could have predicted that we would be in a pandemic? Because of the pandemic and because so many kids have been in their home environment, we understand that they may need a little more of a bridge into the school system,” Fortune said.
One big concern is how much students learned and retained during virtual classes. Some kids may experience the COVID-19 slide.
Fortune said this year, parents should allow their children about a month to adjust, instead of two weeks in the past.
“Now because we have that pandemic, we know we have to extend that,” she said.
Fortune recommends parents watch out for changes in their student’s behavior. Changes could signify that they’re struggling with the transition back to in-person learning.
“Parents will know, sleeping habits are off a little bit. Maybe a little of irritability, just like we see with adults,” Fortune said. “If parents understand that we’ve got that two-to-four-week time. Understand that we’ve got the supports there. That helps parents in their own anxieties about sending their students to school.”
Many school districts work closely with Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters to provide students help with managing those feelings of anxiety or concerns about going back to school. CHKD Educator Michelle Tyron said that the last year was difficult for students, and now their parents need to help them process the events of the pandemic.
“When we talk about processing what they have gone through, looking at what their strengths are, then we want move forward to preparing them for what’s coming next,” Tyron said.
Both experts say security starts at home. Parents must be their child’s solid ground moving forward into the school year.
“The older the child is the more they maybe hearing things or seeing things or confused by things,” Tyron said. “Growth is really where we want to focus with the kids. What did you learn from this experience? This is a historical experience for our children.”
Fortune often shares tips with teachers and parents during training sessions on self-care and wellness, to prevent burnout.
“A lot of this is going to start at home. Remember the conversations that you have in front of your kids, imbeds itself into their own emotions,” she said.
- Portsmouth schools
- Virginia Beach
- Newport News: “In an effort to promote social emotional competencies, positive behaviors and mental health well-being for all students, NNPS has developed the following plans for Phase I, II, and III that will support social emotional learning and mental health of staff and students. School Psychologists, School Social Workers, Student Support Specialists and Mental Health Care Clinicians will provide social, emotional, mental health care and support services, within the school setting, that are aligned with VDOE’s Phased Guidance for Virginia Schools and CASEL Reunite, Renew, and Thrive: SEL Roadmap for Reopening School.“
- Hampton: “HCS is committed to educating the whole child. Social emotional learning skills (SEL) have been a priority prior to the pandemic and are integrated into the curriculum in all content areas. Positive social skills are protective factors for mental health. HCS also has several departments of staff committed to addressing mental health and wellness. School counselors are available in each school to support SEL with explicit instruction and to address mental health needs individually. The school social work department, school psychology department, and the department of student services have all increased in number to better meet the needs of students and families. Each school has a school nurse who is also trained to assist with mental health needs. HCS continues to partner with community agencies who specialize in mental health. HCS also works collaboratively with the city of Hampton to support students and families in need of community based mental health services.”