During the pandemic, teachers and students were separated when schools were closed indefinitely. With no shared physical space and the absence of daily in-person contact, it was a challenge for teachers to stay connected with their students. North of Superior Counselling Programs (NOSP) clinicians who had previously provided in-school service were also in need of establishing a means to reconnect to students and provide supports. Due to issues with online access, NOSP and the Superior North Catholic District School Board (SNCDSB) recognized this to be a barrier for those students who had been receiving in-school mental health supports pre-pandemic.
- NOSP immediately established a web platform to provide students and clients with phone and online counselling when the pandemic began. When it was discovered this would not work for SNCDSB students, the board created an account for the NOSP clinician on the school’s online platform to allow the clinician to continue counselling services with students.
- SNCDSB connected with families directly to assess needs related to availability, connectivity and technology. The school board provided a mobile hotspot (“rocket hub”) for families without internet access, and delivered laptops to all students who needed one.
- The NOSP Clinician and a SNCDSB Educator worked together to meet the needs of Kindergarten students who needed extra support in engaging with online platforms. The Clinician/Educator team set up weekly live learning opportunities focused on engagement and social connection. These live Kindergarten learning sessions were successful in engaging kindergarten students as well as their parents and siblings. Activities included: scavenger hunts, bingo, mother and father’s day crafts, teddy bear picnic, and show and tell. Any activities that required materials were put together into kits and delivered to the children’s homes by the school Principal.
- The requirement to move to virtual education and mental health supports provided an opportunity for all to learn new online skills, with future plans to incorporate more technology in the classroom as an extra learning tool.
- Normally, children would be seen individually in school for counselling. Whereas counselling sessions at home relied on family engagement, with some virtual sessions include the full family around the table with changes now happening at a household level.
- SNCDSB and NOSP closed physical doors, transition to online services.
- Reach-out to families to assess technology and internet needs.
- Use of secure web platforms to provide counselling virtually.
- Design learning activities for virtual and home environment.
- Combined approach with Educator and Clinician to support educational and mental health needs for students and their families.
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