Wisconsin recommends schools focus on mental health upon return next fall

MADISON, Wis.– The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is recommending schools put a strong emphasis on the mental health of students and staff when returning in the fall.

The coronavirus pandemic may have introduced trauma into lives of young students, whether it be the loss of a family member or the quick shift in schedules.

The state recommends schools assume that fear, loss and isolation contribute to an increased need for mental health support.

“There were students who were struggling before, who continued to struggle, and there were students who had huge changes occur in their life,” Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Senior Policy Advisor Jennifer Kammerud said. “At the same time, the social aspects of school, the supports that were available at school were not available in the same way.”

Kammerud said when students return, support needs to be ready.

“It is a big part of the plan. We really need to be thinking about how those students feel safe and supported at school,” Kammerud said.

Spokesperson Perry Hibner said the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District is focusing on this issue.

“We are very concerned about that,” Hibner said. “I mean the reality is, one of the challenges with virtual learning, it’s really difficult to provide the kind of support that kids often get in schools that they can’t get at home, because our experts aren’t available to them.”

The goal is to adjust traditional in-school support to be accessible virtually, as well.

“One of the challenges we are looking at is if there is some sort of blended model or all virtual model, how do we make sure students and families are getting their mental health support,” Hibner said.

Hibner said the district is meeting weekly to discuss plans for next year, and plans can be expected by late July.