Beginning March 16, 2020, the hallways of Catholic schools in Arkansas were silent as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to quickly pivot to online learning. It turned out to not be temporary but continued the rest of the semester. Schools came back in fall 2020 to at least some in-person instruction.
The word to describe 2020? “It would have to just be ‘flexibility’,” said principal Kathy House of Christ the King School in Little Rock. “It’s just ever-changing. It was surprising at first; we didn’t expect to close.”
Carrie Elam, a licensed counselor and art teacher at Blessed Sacrament School in Jonesboro, said overall, reopening schools has helped students’ emotional and mental health.
“What I'm seeing in students is the lack of same-age peer interaction because there’s no play dates, there’s no spontaneous get-togethers, big events, that kind of thing,” Elam said. “Social distance has really caused a lot of students to struggle, craving, starving for social interactions with peers. What happens is a student gets to school, wonderfully so, the school at least provides them with some sort of social outlet.”
She has noticed increased anxiety from stress. “Kids just seem to absorb all that energy around them.”
Some stress signs parents can watch for include:
• Loss of interest in activities they used to love
• Sleep disturbances
• Irritability; “hypervigilant even,” Elam said. If a child that is typically not dramatic, but suddenly acts that way, it may be from depression or anxiety.
• Self-isolation, beyond the normal COVID-19 protocols
• Increase in complaints; if a child is normally cheerful and happy, but suddenly feels sick often and wants to stay home or gets sent to the office for stomach aches and headaches every day or very often.
• Dramatic drop in attention to classwork
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