At Holmes Middle School, one student said he could not concentrate while online, another worried that he would not pass to 8th grade as he failed many classes, while yet another did not want to come back in in-person classes.
When school starts this week, a team of teachers and counselors at Holmes will be on hand to help students navigate through the trauma they experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school has put together several systems, including social and emotional teams to focus on the well-being of students, said Renata Watts, coordinator of the middle school's Family Resources and Youth Services Center. When school closed, it affected every student, some more so than others, she said. Students missed their friends and their favorite teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers. During the closure, some students withdrew from virtual learning. Some failed multiple classes. Mrs. Watts noted that for some students, school is a safe haven away from problems at home.
“We have found some problems exacerbated as students were isolated for long periods of time,’’ Mrs. Watts said. “The routine changed. They were not able to come to school. We know that if they cannot connect to their emotions, they cannot thrive academically. We know that we must address the emotional well-being of our students.’’
Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the state, Holmes Middle School will do just that. The middle school is one of 150 sites to receive grants of $100,000 each to provide support to students and families with issues associated with COVID-19. Five centers in Covington Independent Public Schools received the grants. Besides the middle school, Ninth District Elementary, Sixth District Elementary, Latonia Elementary and Holmes High School received the grants.
Dr. Janice Wilkerson, Covington’s assistant superintendent, said all the grants in the district will focus on mental health supports, such as social-emotional learning materials, training for teachers and families and expanding partnerships with community organizations for additional mental health counseling services.
"When we begin our year in mid-August, some of our students will be coming to school for the first time in more than a year,’’ Dr. Wilkerson said. “We are excited to have these additional funds to help our children and families get back on track emotionally as we recover from the impact of the pandemic.’’
The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief, GEER, fund, established in the CARES Act, provides states with emergency assistance because of COVID-19. The Governor’s office, in partnership with Cabinet for Health and Family Service’s Division of Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, sought applications from local Family Resource or Youth Services Centers to provide and coordinate specific services and assistance related to the student and family needs associated with this emergency. FRYSCs could apply for funds in the areas of early childhood education, childcare or family crisis and mental health counseling.
Because of the range of issues that students experienced during COVID-19, the middle school is well aware that “back to school” will not have the same meaning as it did in the past. Mrs. Watts said the grants will make a difference.
“Our students must adjust from their inabilities to cope, their non-interest in completing schoolwork, failing classes and being isolated at home for long periods of time,’’ Mrs. Watts said. “We know it will take some time, but we are prepared to receive our students at where they are, and most importantly, focus on their well-being, thanks to the grant.’’