Counseling about COVID-19

BUCKHANNON — As the start of school approaches in a far different fashion than ever before, many children are likely in need of some reassurance and guidance to ease their fears and anxiety about returning.  This is a new year with new health requirements, but the Upshur County Board of Education is still dedicated to providing students with the best possible education.  

All of Upshur County’s School Counselors say they are looking forward to working with their students.  Counselors will be giving specific attention to the effects of long-term absence from in-person schooling.  They will also assist with relationship building, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision making.   Each Counselor will also be assisting with their school’s food pantry and Comfort Closet services, given that many students and adults may have experienced immense stress and trauma as a result of the pandemic. 

“Even with COVID-19 worries, school is still school! Come prepared to see familiar people! We will learn a lot, laugh a lot, and come out of this pandemic as stronger people,” School Counselors assure.  Students may notice others not wearing masks, but patience and kindness will be encouraged, as it is uncertain why they may not have one on.  Staff and educators will be wearing their masks to protect their students, and students will be required to do the same in return.  Counselors explain, “If you are sick, please stay home. Take care of you and get well. Contact a doctor if needed. Staying home takes care of you and your classmates and teachers. When you return to school, we will help get you caught up with your academics.”  Students are strongly encouraged to reach out to counselors regarding any safety or health concerns. 

Counselors suggest re-establishing your sleep schedule now – no napping during the day!  Limit social media, especially at night, and do not rely on social media for news updates – instead, use trustworthy, reputable sources.  To keep stress under control, exercise, eat healthy, read, or try relaxing techniques such as yoga.  Communicate your thoughts and feelings with people you trust and take time to renew your spirit through meditation, prayer or helping others.  Always find reasons to smile and laugh, and stay healthy by wearing a mask, frequently washing your hands and cough/sneeze into your elbow. 

The following is some School Counselor guidance on how to talk to your children about returning to school:

  1. Don’t wait until they come to you. Start the conversation in a reassuring, positive manner.
  2. Ask questions. Ask your child how they are thinking and feeling. Look for answers as a team.
  3. Keep information simple and useful.
  4. Validate their concerns. No need to hide from the truth. Let them know their feelings are normal.
  5. Keep structure at home. Try to maintain traditional back to school schedules, bedtimes, meals, and homework times.
  6. Tell them what is being done to keep them safe. Once school starts, ask your child to tell you what they like about safety measures at school. Respond in a positive manner to their concerns and observations.
  7. Empower your child to make healthy decisions with you. Talk about masks, handwashing and social distancing.
  8. Keep yourself informed, so you can be a trustworthy source. If you have questions about Upshur County Schools re-entry plan, contact your School Counselor or refer to the school’s website.
  9. Be compassionate. Your child has never experienced a pandemic. We all make mistakes and can be impatient or grouchy at times.
  10. Follow up. This situation is ever-changing, and as time goes on, there may be new information you want to share with your child, or they may have new questions.

According to Buckhannon-Upshur High School’s Social Emotional Specialist Wilson Harvey, they have been working on a bevy of resources and programming to meet the needs of their students in any situation that might occur.  Knowing that students will be out of the building at any given time, they are focusing on creating materials that students can easily access from home.  One example is their podcast, Smooth Sailing, which will be available for students to download and listen remotely.  The podcast content will include Social/Emotional issues with student volunteers and members of the faculty.  Students should also follow the Buccaneer Student Services Instagram @buhsstudentservices, Twitter @BUHSBSS, and the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Student Services Facebook page.  

Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) at B-UHS will include: A student needs assessment at the beginning of the year; podcasts and videos to reinforce SEL through Advisory courses, department social media and otherwise; connection with resources through Katy Ross, the new Community in Schools faculty member; programming and a needs assessment for parents/families that will help them to understand areas they would like to learn more about and areas that need support; and a multidisciplinary SEL Team with students, faculty and staff that will meet monthly in order to continually assess and respond to needs that arise in the social/emotional domain. 

According to Mr. Harvey, “The social/emotional domain is always an important one for our students, but we know that there are unique challenges and needs that have presented themselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  More than ever, it’s going to be critical that students feel safe, supported, and that they belong in the school building and community.” 

The Upshur County Schools Well-Being Team at B-UHS includes: Dean of Students, Shauna Jones, ext. 5006, Counselor Susie McCoy, ext. 5018, Counselor Anthony McDaniels, ext. 5005, Social Emotional Support Specialist Wilson Harvey, and Community in Schools Specialist Katie Ross. 

The Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School Well-Being Team includes: Counselor Lauren Pavlic, ext. 3016, Counselor Tanya Zickefoose, ext. 3017, and Community in Schools Specialist, Dr. Justin Bowers, ext. 3113. 

Buckhannon Academy Elementary School’s Well-Being Team includes: Counselor Kirsten Coit-Fetty, ext. 2052, and Community in Schools Specialist, Krista Sappey, ext. 2006. 

French Creek Elementary and Rock Cave Elementary Schools’ Well-Being Team includes: Counselor, Larry Lance at (304)-924-6381 or (304)-924-6969.

Hodgesville Elementary and Tennerton Elementary Schools’ Well-Being Team includes: Counselor, Suzanne Bohman, ext. 2904.

Union Elementary and Washington District Elementary Schools’ Well-Being Team includes: Counselor, Ashley Woody, ext. 2809. 

The Personalized Alternative Learning School (PALS) Well-Being Team includes: B-UHS Counselor Cathy Coffield, B-UHS Counselor, ext. 3626 and Social Emotional Support Specialist Jennifer Arisman, ext. 2015. 

Support is also available through 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (1 (800) 273-TALK).  If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety or feel like you want to harm yourself, please do not hesitate to reach out to either of these sources. 

Several of the School Counselors, cooks and nurses will be participating in Tuesday’s food deliveries and they are looking forward to connecting with their students!  The next two weeks of meal delivery will be curbside, and once school starts, meals will be delivered by bus every Wednesday, beginning September 16, according to Wellness and Child Nutrition Director Eddie Vincent. 


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