- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
Providing mental health services in a pandemic
As students return to school amid a global pandemic and racial unrest, Cherry Creek School District staff members are keenly aware of the importance of mental health.
Steve Nederveld, Director of Community Partnerships for Crisis Intervention, said that this school year has posed unique challenges. From considering coverage due to quarantine to providing mental health at a distance, school psychologists, social workers and other mental health staff in the district have been collaborating to keep serving students in an ever-changing environment.
“We’re doing something that has never been done before in our lifetimes: begin a school year during a pandemic,” Nederveld said. “So we’re starting school with an emphasis on relationships and togetherness through building community and teaching new expectations.”
Schools across the district are focused on building relationships and began the year discussing character traits such as empathy, compassion and resilience -- traits that research suggests may help students find success later in life.
Though mental health is a priority, providing those services during a pandemic comes with challenges. One of the first challenges in beginning this school year was in how to provide mental health support to students in different models of schools. Elementary students attending school in person will have a similar experience to last year, while students in the middle and high school hybrid model will access mental health services virtually, to prioritize academic learning during students’ time at the school. Students in the online model will also receive virtual support, with about ten staff members joining the mental health team at Cherry Creek Elevation, the district’s online school.
“No matter what the model, we’re still going to provide those services for our students,” Nederveld said. “We’re still going to strive for excellence. One of the best things we can do as adults is to model commitment, perseverance and optimism for our kids.”