PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- The impacts of COVID-19 are leaving kids feeling a lot of emotions, especially when it comes to looking ahead to what going back to class might look like next year.
What You Need To Know
- Pasco Schools prepare for new school year, new normal
- Guidance counselors prepare to help students with new emotions, issues
- More on Pasco County Schools
School counselors, who already have their hands full, will now be tasked with navigating young minds through another transition.
The school year is barely over and Pasco County School District is already making sure its mental health professionals are preparing for when students return.
"At this time we’re really preparing for a variety of possibilities,” said Angel Hernandez, Sr. Supervisor of the Student Services Division.
There's a wide range of possibilities.
"They’re walking into buildings with everybody has masks and gloves on and that might be scary for some of our students so what kind of social story, what kind of conversation can teachers be having?” said Dr. Vicki Papaemanuel, School Psychologist and Supervisor of Mental Health Student Services.
Mental health teams with Pasco County Schools include a psychologist, two social workers, a counselor, and a nurse.
"Every group has a student services representative on it to really make sure that we’re hitting safety, social emotional, mental health, the well-being that full picture of a child," said Dr. Papaemanuel.
But meeting the needs of that child is changing in the midst of a pandemic, so preparing for next school year is going to be different.
"We have already had the opportunity to put some of those pieces in place," said Dr. Papaemanuel.
"I do think some targeted work that this summer is going to provide around re-entry so we’re gonna have big focus groups that are district level doing planning around what does that look like? How do we enter safely?"
From anxious to excited, Dr. Papaemanuel says every student will return with a different reality.
"We want to be able to meet children wherever they’re at, we want to be able to meet staff members wherever they’re at and provide whatever that needed support is,” said Dr. Papaemanuel.
"As a district have an SCL team for social and emotional learning that is going to be focusing on bridging the academic gaps that the kids are having with their emotional needs," said Hernandez.
These experts say more needs translates to a different approach to training.
"We’re gonna be implementing and offering additional ways to train and scale everybody up for needed supports,” said Dr. Papaemanuel.
Training will include among other areas: suicide prevention, social-emotional learning, and specific counseling.
Some fear there will not be enough mental health providers on school campuses, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Pasco County Schools.
"While certainly we always like to have more, we feel we are equipped with what we need to handle the needs of our students," said Hernandez.
"Our safety net for our students is going to be a little bit tighter," said Dr. Papaemanuel.