Social-emotional health is one main concern for schools this fall

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MANLIUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Though hybrid, all-remote, or in-person learning models being put to the test statewide, schools aren’t focusing solely on the curriculum. In education, there’s a major focus when it comes to social-emotional health.

At the Fayetteville-Manlius School District near Syracuse, one of the first assignments for the older students will be to fill out a mental health survey, gauging what kind of services they need this quarter. A similar survey will be filled out by the parents of younger students. Then comes education and help for those who need it.

“If they don’t feel safe emotionally, they’re not going to feel ready to learn,” said Heidi green.

When schools shut down in the spring, Green and her team started counseling kids online, trying to help the students not only with the loss of life, but major milestones. Green says remote counseling went better than expected, but it comes at a cost.

“There’s definitely a loss of privacy. So when students are at home, their sibling might be next door, in the room next to them or their parents might be close by and they may not have the comfort level to disclose some information they might otherwise disclose,” Green said.

With the hybrid model, most students will be in the classroom two days a week and they can schedule appointments with the counselors either in person or online on their own time. Plus, everyone will fill out a mental health survey, allowing the schools to take care of serious cases first.

There’s also a major push to make social-emotional learning part of everyday instruction.  

“We’re really working hard to make sure that they feel comfortable and confident being back here by sharing lots of information and we have,” said Green.

And information is power says Dr. Tonya Peletieere, who’s been counseling kids through her own practice during the pandemic. As everything re-opens, she’s getting a lot more phone calls.

“Going back to school, I’ve seen a huge uptick in a lot of those anxious behaviors: Lashing out, avoidance, clinginess. That we hadn’t seen in a long time,” Peletieere said.

Something they all hope will change once students get back into the swing of things.

“I think for the anxious student, just to know that we are so excited to have them back in class and to have the opportunity to work with them directly, see them in person, and make this a good place for them to learn,” Green said.

F-M also has two new therapy dogs they hope to utilize this year. The initiative starting out as a pilot program last year. Green says the dogs have a special impact on the kids’ mental health, calming them down in times of crisis.


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