After almost 2 years, schools are back in-person and parents/students can finally go back to pre-pandemic routines. Sending the kids off to school means they’re learning valuable life skills and making new friends while you get to enjoy the extra quiet time at home or the ability to run errands peacefully.
We all desire the return of our “normal” lives; however, recent concerns flooding your newsfeeds (such as the tragedies occurring on nationwide school grounds, the ongoing pandemic, and the mental health crisis within students) can surely make the eagerness for this school year fade.
Remember: You are not alone in feeling these negative emotions! Your local school district is very aware of current issues and they are actively working to ensure a safe and effective learning environment for all. Here are a couple of ways schools are doing just that:
- Schools are hiring more on-site professionals such as mental health specialists, resource counselors, and therapists.
Studies suggest the idea of finding relief through verbally communicating our internal thoughts helps us find validation and move on. Negative emotions are inevitable, how we deal with them determines the effect they have on us.
More than 80% of U.S. public school kids are carrying a lot of weight due to the burdens of the pandemic and the constant fear of a violent attack. Providing a professional on campus gives students the option to release some of that weight, benefiting overall health, mood, and academic performance.
We can list all the positive affects of prioritizing mental health on school grounds, but it all comes down to whether or not these resources are being utilized. To take a closer look at how schools encourage and communicate these opportunities to you and your children, we spoke with Brywood Elementary’s Resource Counselor, Sydney Smith.
Smith described her role as “improving the wellness of students individually and socially.” She explained that “kids are still dealing with social skills, being without their parents, getting along and adjusting back to [in-person] school.” These are just a few of the ways she noticed remote learning has stunted social and behavior skills in younger kids.
Smith’s ideal ways of establishing trust and connection with the students are “going to all the classrooms at the beginning of the year, explaining where our office is and they can do when they visit.” Mental health resources are a recently implemented focus for schools, so kids and parents may not know exactly what these resources can do or what they’re for. Because of this, Smith expresses the importance of “advocating for yourself and making sure you show the job is important.”
- There are various programs/collaborations that strive to make schools a safe, effective, and welcoming learning environment.
An interesting and unique fact that sets IUSD apart from other OC districts is their relationship with Irvine PD. This collaboration provides a reliable safety net, including on site officers and necessary training and response planning, for example.
To further explain the advantages of having this relationship with IPD, IUSD’s Public Information Officer, Annie Brown shared “IPD works with the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the FBI, the Orange County
(Alex Mendoza, IPD D.A.R.E. Officer, visiting Hicks Canyon Elementary
School. Source: via IPD’s Facebook )
Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Fire Authority, Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center and more on a broad range of issues, including but not limited to school safety and violent intruders. IPD infuses this expertise in annual staff and student trainings.”
Other resources that the district wants to emphasize include the RSPCT campaign, WellSpaces, the D.A.R.E. program, and other resources located at https://iusd.org/prevention. Brown revealed that IUSD “has spent more than $15M on mental health and wellness investments, resources and staffing as part of our ongoing commitment.”
(Ribbon cutting ceremony for WellSpaces, a new mental health resource for IUSD
students, opened in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) &
the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE). Source: via IUSD’s webpage.)
- Staying updated and connected is a priority.
Although we all hope that your child’s school year is filled with fun and happy memories, we still need to think about what to do in an emergency situation. I asked Brown about the ways parents can stay notified should any major news needs to be communicated. She explains that it’s “easy as 1-2-3!”
- Check your email, voicemail, and messages.
- Visit www.IUSD.org
- Follow IUSD on Social Media
Double check that the contact information your school has is up to date, and you should be set on receiving important school communications and any emergency notifications in real time.
Your concerns are not going unnoticed as local districts are actively making efforts to improve students’ learning and their environment to hopefully eliminate any doubts you may have. Although the future is unpredictable, being as prepared as possible is the most important tool we can have. For more information on your local schools/districts efforts visit the links down below.