Ensuring students’ emotional health: Support team ready to help

Throughout the summer, the Shelter Island School administration and staff have been preparing for what they hoped would be a full, in-person return for the 2020-21 school year.

With COVID-19 infection rates currently low, and preparations underway to welcome the students back on Sept. 10, the Reporter spoke with school psychologist Danielle Spears to see what steps are being taken to care for students’ emotional needs, as well as their physical safety and learning environment.

Having been out of school since March, dealing with COVID anxieties and adjusting to changes at school may all have an impact.

At the outset, a “social emotional team,” led by Ms. Spears and school social worker Michele Albano, will conduct a needs assessment. “Once we collect and review our data, we will decide the most efficient way to move forward,” Ms. Spears said. “It’s difficult to say which path we are going to take until our students’ voices are heard.”

Ms. Spears said it was reasonable to assume that there would be a major adjustment period for not only the students, but the faculty as well.

“Unfamiliarity along with uncertainty tends to make an individual feel uncomfortable,” she said.

Certainly, she added, students are likely to experience mixed emotions.

“We can make an educated guess that most students are going to be happy seeing their friends again along with their favorite teachers and staff members, but the familiar environment they once knew is going to look a little different, such as not being able to sit with their friends in the cafeteria or playing closely together at recess.”

Many new questions and concerns are likely to arise, and the team will deal with them as they come along.

“All of our students will receive support,” Ms. Spears said, “so that they are led down a path to a successful school year despite these unprecedented times.”