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Central Texas school districts focus on mental health for students, staff

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:01 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Districts are preparing to take care of teachers and students physical health when they come back this month, and for some districts, taking care of mental health is just as important.

Both Waco and Midway ISD said they are taking a proactive approach when it comes to mental well-being for both their students and their staff. Both districts say they want to make it easy for everyone to access resources when they need them.

This year, Waco ISD is partnering with Care Solace, which is a service that connects people with resources in the community, and helps with navigating things like insurance. The district said it’s a way to let someone else do the hard work of finding the best mental health provider.

“In the midst of a crisis, we want you to know that our counselors can and will respond,” Dr. Rachelle Warren, assistant superintendent for student services and support, said. “And part of that response will be referred to Care Solace, so that you can get additional support. That will be a direct service to the student or the families.”

The district also brought on social emotional learning and counseling coordinators to help highlight and focus the support the district is already offering. Dr. Warren said their students and staff deserve the extra support in a difficult time, which includes a lot of uncertainty.

“That brings stress, that brings anxiety, that bring reasonable concerns about what happens next. And so it’s important for us to respond to that,” Dr. Warren said. “We want to provide things that will help in terms of response, we really want to provide resources that will help proactively.”

Midway ISD said the district has been trying to think ahead and anticipate any needs of students of staff, and have been collecting and sharing resources, like how to talk with your kids about heading back to school and reducing anxiety.

Anne-Marie Zellers, coordinator for student support services for Midway ISD, said they are continuing partnerships with community organizations like Texans Recovering Together and bringing in more staffing for schools.

“Every year we try to do more than we did the year before, so that we can really focus on the whole child, the social emotional piece of that too,” Zellers said. “Because we know that when they’re in a better headspace, mentally, emotionally, then they’re going to be in a better place academically as well.”

Zellers said as students and families prepare to head back to school, there are a few things parents can do to help make their kids feel more comfortable about being back.

Routine is important for kids, and Zellers said families can help transition kids back into their school routine so it’s something they’re used to. Families can also spend time talking with kids about what the year will look like, and any concerns they may have.

“Let’s look at your schedule, let’s talk through your day, you know, what’s that going to look like let’s talk about lunch and what kind of things do you want to take for lunch,” Zellers said. “Helping the child feel prepared to go back and then also letting them know who all the supports are on campus so when they need something to do they go to.”

Both districts said they want families to know they recognize that this can be a difficult time, and the resources they offer will evolve over time.

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