By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
City officials unveiled a ‘Bridge to School’ mental health initiative on Wednesday to help students cope with the stress of learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“After what we have been through over the last six months our children’s social and emotional learning is more important now more than ever,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who joined Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza during Wednesday’s press conference. “So on the first day of school they will stand carrying more than the usual weight of their backpacks, they’ll be carrying the weight of a myriad of emotions.”
Partners like The Robinhood Foundation, Gray Foundation and the Tiger Foundation are helping with the initiative which includes a special mental health curriculum for both remote and in-person students and training for teachers and principals.
Lessons will help students building coping skills to deal with feelings of grief and reconnect with other students. Principals will receive trauma response training in the few days before school starts, according to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, which will continue with the help of community partners throughout the fall.
The city will also launch a hotline with the help of the Child Mind Institute for educators and school staff to call and receive consultation from “mental health professionals” on the best practices and classroom strategies for helping students with mental health or wellness issues.
The initiative is the newest in a long list of recent school improvement measures launched as pressure mounts from parents, teachers and union leaders to delay the start of in-person classes on Sept. 10. Throughout the summer, parents and teachers decried the de Blasio administration for failing to be adequately transparent in its efforts to reopen schools and a bevy of questions including some about the status of school ventilation systems and the teacher schedules remain unanswered.
Mayor de Blasio admitted that the city will not shut down school buildings and instead close off classrooms used by a student or teach infected with the novel coronavirus. If all goes as planned, New York City will be the largest city in the country to allow in-person classes this fall.