After the second day of school, Lydia McNeilly, school counselor, received a message from a seventh-grader: Could I excuse him from gym class? In Hammond, Indiana, about 80 percent of the student’s peers were learning remotely for nearly a year and a half.
The first time he has been inside the building since March 2020, he feels overwhelmed. In contrast to his quiet home where he had logged into an online course while grieving the loss of his grandmother and uncle, the gym seemed noisy and a jarring change from the quiet of his sports class in school.
Back-To-School Presents A Number Of Challenges To Remote Learners
Counselor McNeilly, as well as the eighth-grade counselor, spent most of the summer considering how to reintegrate students when they returned to school on Aug. 18. Perhaps an engineering or technology class, or maybe an art class, would be a better option than the gym for the semester.
The school is simply doing what is in the best interests of students, McNeilly told WLRN, adding that it was clear that many other students were feeling nervous as well within the first few days. Eventually, things will improve, but it will take time.
The goal among schools across the country is to find out how to make remote learners feel comfortable being in the classroom again. While the coronavirus threatens to upend yet another school year, educators have devised creative ways to make students feel at ease – from tours or virtual tours of the building to red-carpet introductions on the first day. A lot of work lies ahead for the schools.
Parents throughout the United States spoke to NBC News about their kids’ return to in-person education. They were excited to see their kids, but the transition affected them in different ways, ranging from an exhausted high schooler to an elementary student whose teacher had to send an email to his mother because he could not sit still.
The number of students who went to school remotely until the start of the pandemic and have returned to in-person classes does not appear to be available in national data. Despite this, many students are returning to school – some against their will or against their parent’s wishes, as concerns grow about the highly contagious delta variant.
We understand our students are nervous. The American School Counselor Association chair Tinisha Parker spoke to that effect. There has been a great deal of effort put into creating excitement, she added.
Parker is the executive director of student services at Gwinnett County public schools in Georgia, which tried to make the first day of school festive. On one occasion, students walked off the bus to a red carpet, a band, and cheerleaders. Confetti was thrown. As Parker said, they did everything they could. The celebration was especially memorable for our faculty and teachers. We missed our kids too, she added.
Pandemic-Related Problem Addressed
Schools in the United States have suffered from inadequate mental health resources and staffing issues for many years. Data from the most recent school year includes 424 students for 1 counselor, far above the recommended ratio of 250 students to 1 counselor recommended by the American School Counselor Association.
Children’s mental health is in urgent need of attention following the pandemic. The pandemic has caused the loss of a parent to 43,000 children since it began. Depression can be caused by isolation in some teens. Children and adolescents visited emergency departments more frequently in 2020 than they did in 2019.
Nationally, schools are responding to the issue. With Oklahoma schools struggling to hire school counselors and mental health professionals, the state Department of Education awarded grants to 181 schools using federal relief funds.
New York City will start providing voluntary, confidential screenings for all kindergarteners through 12th graders starting this fall to identify students who are distressing, had trauma, or were experiencing other mental health challenges. In Kansas, some schools will provide students with mental health services during school hours through community mental health centers, the Associated Press reports.