Sheffield City Schools is increasing its mental health training to prepare employees to help students returning in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
The school system used some of the CARES Act funding given to them by the state to add a mental health service coordinator.
"We are aware that our students, faculty, teachers, and the families of our students are facing increased anxiety and depression due to the pandemic," said Jacqueline Johnson, the school system's new mental health coordinator. "Our families and students may have faced unemployment. There might be a loss of jobs and increased strain on families financially...we're also mindful that some of our students are going to be worried about returning to school and the fear that they might get someone in their family sick."
The school system is doing specific training with some teachers to recognize trauma related to coronavirus and how to build relationships with students even if they are learning virtually.
"We are going to use a trauma informed approach. We're going to focus on personal wellness. We're going to focus on creating wellness and stability and predictability, because for so many of our students and families, the year ended abruptly and that contributed to a change in routine," said Johnson.
This year, the high school will have Mable, too. She's one of the school system's emotional support animals. Mable used to be in the elementary schools, but she and her handler moved to the high school.
"She's trained to identify students who might be nervous or anxious and just her presence coming up and nudging the student possibly laying at their feet tends to alleviate some anxiety," said Julie Box, the director of student services for the district.
Students will return to school at Sheffield in staggered days on Aug. 17. Students will then be on an alternating schedule until Sept. 4.
Students will be split up into two groups. Students will go to traditional classes two days a week and have three days of virtual learning.
The district said it will assess the coronavirus situation in the area and make a decision on the alternating days closer to Sept. 4.