Many students are still facing pandemic-related struggles.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – On Wednesday, nearly 30,000 children in the Chula Vista Elementary School District will return to campus full time for the first time in 16 months.

The district is open all year round, marking the start of a new year.

While the first day of school is often nerve-wracking, many students struggle with social and emotional issues related to the pandemic.

“Many of our children have had some pretty difficult things to do in the past 16 months,” said Elizabeth Gianulis, director of the district’s tiered support system.

She said this includes feelings of isolation, increased anxiety, and the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19.

“A parent, grandparents, friends,” said Gianulis.

As a result, the county is spending more money on social and emotional support than ever before.

This new school year, she says the district has allocated more money than ever to make sure the children are safe not only physically but also emotionally.

“Each school will have a full-time school psychologist and then each school will have access to a school counselor or social worker,” said Gianulis.

The district with 46 locations and almost 30,000 students has always had psychologists available. but not to this extent.

Gianulis said her staff has quadrupled.

“Before the pandemic, a handful of schools had part-time support from mental health providers, but not at this level where they actually have their own school counselor or school social worker,” she said.

In the first few weeks after their return, the children get to know their counselors and social workers so they know who to talk to if they want.

Teachers and staff are also trained to refer children when they see someone in trouble.

“We look at attendance, we look at behavioral recommendations, even how often a student will visit the nurse,” said Gianulis.

In addition, social and emotional wellbeing will be part of the daily curriculum.

“In every single classroom, at least 15 minutes a day are devoted to social, emotional learning only,” said Gianulis.

Videos are circulating on the Internet informing families of the changes.

Gianulis hopes this type of support will become the norm not just this year but forever.

“We firmly believe in supporting the whole child,” she said.

Gianulis suggests that parents also look for signs that their child is having trouble.

This may include changing attitudes, having difficulty sleeping, or losing interest in things they used to enjoy.

She said parents can notify their child’s teacher, principal, or receptionist if they would like their child to speak to someone.

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