(WLAX/WEUX) – Students in the La Crosse school district may be back in the classroom, but many are struggling to return to regular school routines.
“We’re seeing increased levels of social anxiety from the pandemic, kids reporting feeling lonely, disconnected from peers and from others.”
Student services director Aimee Zabrowski says the academic hangover from the pandemic is only heightening the strain on students.
“We had a year of school, more than a year of school where we were virtual or hybrid, and that lead to some academic delays, and so there’s this increased pressure all-around of, well we need to make up academically, but that adds stress and anxiety to students that sometimes are out of practice with those school habits, which contributes to just heightened levels of stress all around.”
Those feelings lead a group of students to speak out to the school board last month, pleading for more mental health resources.
The district is making mental health an even greater priority, using a partnership with Gundersen Health System to address counseling shortages.
“We have what’s called a student/family assistance program, which employs two full-time mental health providers right within our schools to provide early intervention services for students who need it.”
Community services director Curt Teff says there’s a continuing search for outside resources, but more work can still be done within the district to improve mental health.
“There are a number of things that schools can do internally to help address growing concerns, things that we can do universally for all students like teaching social-emotional learning skills, and some of our schools are teaching mindfulness skills.” Said Teff.
The district is planning to provide mental health screenings for students, as well as train staff to be better able to identify signs of anxiety or depression. District staff encourages students to talk to a trusted adult if they’re in need of help, whether that be their teacher, principal, or parent.