TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The first day of school for students in the Twin Falls School District is Wednesday, and everyone is bustling to get ready--especially the district's counselors.
Not only are they working to finalize schedules, but many of them are working to offer tele-mental health options for students because of the coronavirus. As Idaho News 6 has reported, the district announced its plans to make mental health a priority in its strategic plan.
"I think the word for the year, and for education in general is flexibility. Using more than one outlet to be available and accessible to students," said Christi Benson, the school counselor at Twin Falls High School.
Benson explained when school suddenly switched to online this spring, it was a jarring transition that caused an increase in kids experiencing anxiety. They're expecting to see more of it in the upcoming year.
"Definitely during the spring, we didn't have time to prepare kids, or us, or staff, or anybody. I think that anxiety was a big one that kids felt," said Benson. "Kind of a lot of what's happening--anxiety, depression. I think coming into a new school year not knowing exactly what's going to happen, some of that anxiety is starting to get really heightened right now."
That's why Benson and other counselors across the district are working to make sure they have the resources to help--regardless of whether or not they're in the building.
"We're always going to be accessible. I think the only level where we may not be in the building is probably at the red level, but that will look kind of like what we did in the spring," Benson explained.
If remote learning happens again, the counselors are working to make sure they're prepared to offer mental health sessions virtually, something they began doing this spring when the pandemic hit.
"Utilize this tool, these video chat tools, to continue to support our students' social and emotional needs and be available for our kiddos," Benson said.
Benson says for their in-person sessions, they and the students will be wearing face coverings, but they'll also be taking the sessions outside and practicing social distancing.