Students return, but need help

Students+experienced+huge+changes+in+routine%2C+social+interactions%2C+their+daily+lives%2C+and+their+learning+during+the+pandemic.+

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Students experienced huge changes in routine, social interactions, their daily lives, and their learning during the pandemic.

Kelly Czapor , Staff Writer

Quarantine and the pandemic have taken a toll on everyone, affecting each person uniquely.

Students, specifically, experienced huge changes in routine, social interactions, their daily lives, and their learning. Some students lost loved ones to the pandemic, others faced financial hardships, the numbers of depression and anxiety increased quickly across the country, and many stayed online the whole year and were isolated – living with limited interactions with friends, teachers, and classmates.

At Spring-Ford, high school students were given the option to return to school or to stay at home and learn through Zoom in a hybrid learning model last year. Regardless of the option chosen, students also had an asynchronous day at home every Wednesday. This year, all students attended school in-person every day while still facing COVID-19 and all the stress that the pandemic brings.

“From the beginning, we’ve seen elevated levels of stress, anxiety, different behavioral issues in students,” says Bob Mullany, superintendent of Millis Public Schools in Boston, regarding the return of K-12 students.

Let’s face it, a year off of interacting with other students was detrimental to kids. They lost a year of developing social skills and interactions with others. Anxiety levels surrounding the pandemic have already risen, and returning to school added more stress as kids throughout the K-12 grades are experiencing new anxieties and frustrations surrounding school.

“I was definitely more stressed and anxious about returning to school this year,” Spring-Ford senior Julia McGuigan said. “I felt like I had to learn how to do school again.”

Students are all struggling to adjust this school year and are continuing to combat the issues caused by the pandemic. School districts have taken notice of this change and there are attempts to help.

In October of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health. This has been an ongoing state of emergency throughout 2020, 2021, and 2022. School districts are well aware of this and many continue to not address this crisis.

Fortunately, Spring-Ford Area School District has a page on their website dedicated to their reopening for this school year with multiple links to support groups and educational sites regarding the mental health of young people. There are also counselors available at each building that are open to talking to the students about their struggles and support groups through the school.

Students need to be more aware of these resources, though, and be empowered to ask for help.

“It can not only be a concern that students may not realize the available resources, but a concern with asking for help for fear of the stigma attached to the supports we have in place,” said Dr. Keith Cetera, a counselor at Spring-Ford High School. “Students need to be aware that they are not alone in this fight.”

At schools nationwide, students are still missing multiple days of school if they or a family member have contracted COVID, continually get notified if a close contact classmate has gotten COVID, and are losing valuable days of instruction if a teacher is sick from COVID.

Each day, students face the fear of becoming sick and seeing their friends and family become ill, the stress of difficult tests and assignments, the anxiety of interacting with peers after being isolated, and the frustration of facing another day of missed learning because a teacher is absent.

Schools locally and nationally need to realize the problems students face daily regarding school and the pandemic and the mental toll it is taking on these kids.
What else can be done?

Allowing a mental health day once a month, not adding more stress by holding more exams, and thoroughly explaining resources would greatly benefit the student population if a student is feeling overwhelmed. Implementing a better and clearer procedure for absent students completing work at home and a more effective way for absent teachers to communicate with their students would also be greatly beneficial.
Students’ mental health is very important to succeed in and enjoy school and school districts need to be more active and understanding in their attempts to help.