New Martinsville programs helping students during pandemic

Class meetings, free mental health for families, and more

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martinsville families will be getting surveys on Friday about school and how everything is going. They are 100% virtual right now.

For the past few years, the school system has been focusing on more than just learning and grades they’ve also been making sure families have access to free mental health services, food and more.

It’s part of the new push for “social-emotional learning” (SEL), which Felicia Preston, director of Pupil Personnel Services describes as tapping into a portion of the student you wouldn’t normally integrate into your regular academic instruction. Preston says people started talking about this concept not too long ago of making sure you understand the person and child, thinking about their feelings and emotions, and how it comes together to make the child successful.

“What we see on the surface is a child’s behavior,” said Preston. “What we don’t see are the factors like, hunger, environmental stress, or physical safety that are the underlying triggers. SEL is a vital tool we can use to better assess behavioral issues and handle situations with holistic understanding of why this may be happening.”

New this year, students and parents can contact counselors directly and confidentiality.

Counselors are “open” virtually, having virtual office hours, virtual contact forms, and are set up in our student platforms so students can link directly to them for support during the day.

Many teachers are also holding class meetings for the first ten minutes of class.

“They’re trying to get a feel for where students are, how they’re feeling about virtual learning are there some stresses going on that maybe could be talked about as a group so students don’t feel alone,” said Preston.

Teachers can refer students to the school counselor for additional support if necessary, at any time. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate character education into lessons to teach respect, responsibility, or citizenship.

Staying in touch with families and communication has been big during the pandemic.

“I think it actually brings us closer to our families because they know that no call goes unanswered and if they reach out somebody’s there I think in this time of the pandemic that’s really important to parents,” said Dr. Zebedee Talley Jr., Martinsville City Public Schools Superintendent.

There are also case managers in each school to help families connect with other services that are needed outside of the school system.

They say all of these things are helping especially when things are virtual.

Talley and Preston also recently talked about what they’re doing on a podcast hosted by the University of Virginia.

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