By Rikki Frischman, Preventionist

The 2022-2023 school year has just begun. As people move on from the craziness of the last two and a half years, many teachers, parents, and students still have thoughts and concerns about what this new school year will bring. While the risk of children getting very sick from Covid-19 is low, transmissions from surges pose a risk for students during the back-to-school season. According to information provided by Mayo Clinic, as of September 10, 2022, Middlesex County has an average daily count of 185 people with Covid positive cases. This number is expected to increase as the weather gets colder.

Looking at the past two school years (2020-2021 and 2021-2022), schools have dealt with severe staff shortages, high rates of absentees, and quarantine. Schools are also seeing an increased risk of violence, misbehaviors and loss of instruction time due to this. Will the 2022-2023 school year have similar findings?

Since the start of the pandemic and continuing into the new school year mental health of students has grown into a major concern. This concern is especially prominent with children of color (COC) and children who identify as LGBTQIA+. When compared to their Caucasian peers, COC were more likely to experience loss due to the pandemic. Additionally, children who identify as LGBTQIA+ are more likely to experience sadness compared to their heterosexual peers.

The good news is that steps have been taken to address the mental health crisis. With the implementation of the 988 crisis number, students have access to support 24/7 via text or call. 988 is a nationwide phone number that, when called or texted, will connect you to the suicide and crisis hotline. This number supports people that are having thoughts of suicide, mental health issues, substance use crisis and any other form of emotional trauma.

School districts are hiring more school-based providers and allowing excused absences for mental health. Students with IEP may be entitled to compensatory services to address lost skills due to the pandemic. Additionally, students who have disabilities related to long-covid may be eligible for special education services.

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