OLATHE, Kan. — Schools are reopening, whether that's in person or virtually.
Students are getting everything they need to prepare: school supplies, laptops and tablets. But district leaders and mental health experts stress the importance of mentally preparing for the new adjustment.
Director of Social, Emotional Learning and Mental Health Services with Olathe Public Schools, Angela Salava said the pandemic has been a stressful time for students.
"Their routine has been disrupted, they've not been able to see their friends like they normally would and they've not gotten to see their teachers and do the type of learning we want to provide them," Salava said. "We anticipate that our services will be accessed more than ever before. We did provide services during the spring during the shutdown, and in the summer, and our demand was very high."
Olathe Public Schools and the Johnson County Mental Health Center received a grant from the Kansas Department of Education. The $145,656 grant will allow each organization to hire two therapists.
Salava said the timing couldn't be better.
"Having access to therapists in the school setting, we can not only provide support in the school but provide support to the entire family," she said. "It's also an opportunity for students and families to be able to access all of the services that Johnson County Mental Health provides without the wait time that normally exists because they're very busy as well. So we are just super excited."
Olathe is doing a hybrid model for its elementary students and a remote model for its middle and high school students to start off the 2020-2021 school year.
Whether in-person learning or distance learning, Salava said it's important to look out for one another when it comes to mental health.
"We all have to care for one another, especially in this environment where people don't have eyes on everybody like they normally would be in a school building," she said. "So if we can remember to ACT: acknowledge, care and tell, we'd be able to serve our students in a more timely manner."
Salava said it's important for teachers, staff and students to remember the acronym ACT if see their student or peer may be mentally drained:
Acknowledge how they feel.
Care about what they're saying.
Tell a mental health professional, trusted teacher.
If students feel overwhelmed during the school day, it's suggested to take a break - walk around the room or outside. Take deep breaths. And talk to someone they trust; don't hold feelings in.
Before starting the school year, Salava encourages students to have a place set up in the home where they're able to focus and be free of distractions. She said it's also important to develop a routine that incorporates breaks and lunchtime, to feel less overwhelmed throughout the school day.
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