Options exist for students with mental health concerns related to pandemic


Rachael Robeson, Writer

In January, the Oshkosh Area School Board made the decision to return to in-person learning five days a week. While many students and parents looked forward to the return, others felt forced to return to an unsafe learning environment with their only options being returning to school or entering eAcadamy (no virtual option). However, the school administration has offered several options for students struggling with fear, anxiety, and other return-to-school-related issues. 

Many students struggled academically during virtual learning, and the school board felt the best option was to get students back full time as soon as possible, safety precautions in place—with the exception of social distancing. A month later, students returned to fully in-person classes for the first time in about a year. 

Some students truly benefit from full-time in-person classes, communicating with teachers, and completing assignments in class.

“I work so much better in school, so me being in school 5 days a week will be very effective,” a student who wishes to remain anonymous says.

However, many students are struggling to adjust to the sudden shifts between school models and have shared that they miss hybrid learning and virtual Wednesdays. 

I did better virtually then I do in person [because] I got to take my time with my school work. Now I have to rush [doing] my homework [because] I have to go to work right after school every day in order to support myself,” another student who wishes to remain anonymous says. 

But the most prominent problem for the majority of students is mental health. In-person school can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially for people who have avoided social situations throughout the pandemic. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the impact of COVID-19 on mental health has been extreme. Depression and Stress-related disorders in the population have increased by over 25% and illicit drug use is up 13%.

Clearly, schools must have a plan to approach the whole student, not just academically.

When the goal is to help our students improve their grades and succeed in school, in-person learning is not one size fits all. According to Principal Jacquelyn Kiffmeyer, options exist for students, and accommodations can be made available to relieve stress, lower social anxiety, or to address any other struggles and concerns.

Kiffmeyer says,  “Administration is very flexible, and [we] understand that everyone has a different situation. [You should] work with administration to create [an] individualized plan for specific situations.” 

Kiffmeyer stressed that the administration wants to do everything they can to support students—when students strongly advocate for themselves, Kiffmeyer explained that “extended lunch periods, shortened days, even virtual learning can be available to those who need them”. These options can really benefit those with physical or mental health issues, as well as the students who are struggling with the sudden changes through virtual, hybrid, and in-person. 

This pandemic has been a crazy experience for all of us and everyone has a different view of how school should be going right now, but with communication and a flexible administration, we can provide every student with the help and support they need.