Lesson Learned (July 23)


A “Freudian Slip,” a term for the turn of phrase coined by Sigmund Freud, MD, the Father of Psychiatry, showing a glimpse into our subconscious mind, happened to me as I reviewed West Virginia Department of Education documents. Boots, our terrific house cat and mouser, came over to me wanting his ears rubbed as I rocked and read distractedly. 

“How are you, my child?” I heard myself greet our cat. Quickly, I caught my slip of the tongue, rephrasing, “How are you, my cat?” Just as quickly, I realized that Boots and his sister, Tail, are our children in our empty nest home!

From 50 years of analyzing medical facts and clinical data exercising my practice of medicine, I uttered an “AHA!” I read the West Virginia Schools Re-Entry Toolkit now with enlightened eyes. I studied the document with my conscious and my subconscious mind.

The tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic lies not just in the facts. On March 13, 2020, Governor Jim Justice closed all school facilities. The merits of his decision are obvious due to the threat of the Coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19). Now the health and safety of our children are at risk, having experienced loss during the pandemic. Many children lost academic progress, but more so they lost access to emotional support and health services. Some children have been traumatized at home.

One of the three re-entry tasks that WV Schools Superintendent W. Clayton Burch emphasizes is social -emotional wellness. In our manual he notes: “Fear and anxiety about COVID-19 can be overwhelming. The precautions that continue to be in place to slow the spread of the virus and the uncertainties these precautions may create can give rise to unexpected emotions in both children and adults.”

To re-enter, schools and counties are required to:

  • Convene a crisis response planning team...
  • In response to a crisis, convene a mental health crisis response team...
  • Provide access to professional student support staff...
  • Implement a continuous advisory system...
  • Provide an integrated delivery of social - emotional standards...

During our June 11, 2020 BOE public meeting we reviewed a reorganized proposal that addresses wellness. We made suggestions toward a professional position encompassing wellness and child nutrition. The federal and state requirements necessitate due diligence. Besides our Upshur County Schools employees including cafeteria staff and nurses, we have working agreements with outside agencies for psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other professionals. Oversight is a must.

I am pleased to say in this age of transparency that our cats, Boots and Tail, have an impeccable school record beginning with Washington District Elementary School. Their mother cared enough to bring them to school to be born and reared. At 8 weeks of age they were ready to graduate from school. We welcomed them into our home where they have become lifelong learners consistent with the Mission of Upshur County Schools. Now Boots and Tail add much emotional support as we plan the return to school in August.

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