School-Based Youth Services Program Addresses Mental Health Needs of Students
After two years of virtual and hybrid learning environments, students in New Brunswick finally returned to in-person learning earlier this month.
While the return to a sense of normalcy is undoubtedly welcome, acclimating to the change is gradual. New Brunswick Public Schools (NBPS) and NBT's School-Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP) are working to alleviate some of the anxiety felt around the return to in-person learning.
NBPS is ensuring the health of its students and staff with the implementation of procedures for maintaining infection control. These procedures include all employees and students arriving with a CDC-recommended face covering or mask, employees and students completing a daily health screening, physical indicators being present to remind everyone to practice social distancing and good hand washing, and protective barriers being installed in areas where physical distancing isn’t possible. You can find the district's full "Infection Control Procedure"here.
Though our children's physical safety and health are priorities, families may also be facing behavioral, social, and emotional challenges as their children and teens readjust to a new learning environment. While SBYSP already provides services to students at New Brunswick schools such as case management and basic needs assistance, we are also seeing a need for increased mental health counseling to help students adjust to changes.
“Students are having a hard time acclimating to the adjustment of in-person learning,” says SBYSP Site Manager for Roosevelt Elementary School, Jessica Viscuso. “Some of our kindergarten and first graders have never been away from their parents, so settling into the classroom setting has been difficult for them. Additionally, we are finding it is difficult for students to stay focused and on-task in a classroom setting.”
For many students, these changes in the school safety protocols were unexpected. For example, students did not expect to have assigned seating at lunch, a new measure designed for contact tracing, but one that precludes students from sitting with whoever they choose. To help with the adjustment back to in-person learnings, SBYSP is preparing workshops on classroom etiquette for students. In September, at Roosevelt School, School-Based staff distributed a presentation on Child Wellness and Safety. Additionally, all SBYSP sites have delivered information on their services to their school administrators, staff, and parents via back-to-school night.
Though SBYSP transitioned back to in-person services from telehealth with ease, the increase in the need for counseling has required School-Based staff to adapt to a new normal. In addition, to follow-ups with students from the past year, many new referrals are being added to the caseload. While the road to recovery has some obstacles along the way, SBYSP continues to be an invaluable resource for students and families.