How the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch dealt with student stress in the pandemic

·2 min read
Keeping schools open was 'huge,' says Terri MacAdam. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Keeping schools open was 'huge,' says Terri MacAdam. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

P.E.I. was fortunate to be able to keep schools open through the last academic year, says Terri MacAdam, director of student services for the Public Schools Branch, but it was still a stressful year.

"In the last year we did see a rise in the number of students who were exhibiting signs of anxiety," said MacAdam.

School buildings were closed shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020 and did not open again until the new school year started in September. For the most part, unlike pretty much everywhere else in Canada, they were able to stay open.

To help students with pandemic anxiety, the Public Schools Branch hired a counselling consultant to support counselling staff in the schools, and added 13 youth service workers.

"We also had to look at different ways of delivering programming for some students whose anxiety was just too high to be in the building, or for a small number of students who were considered immunocompromised," said MacAdam.

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

An online alternative education program opened for 20 students. It was run by a single teacher, who delivered a number of different high school courses, from English to math.

There is room for that program to continue, said MacAdam, even as pandemic concerns lessen, but she said being in the building is still best for students. Building teacher-student relationships is important, and it is easiest to do that in person.

"We were successful in keeping our schools open, and that was huge," she said.

"We really … emphasize relationships with kids. That was the main thing."

The work of helping students through the pandemic is not done, said MacAdam. The Public Schools Branch has been successful in hiring more counsellors to work in the schools next year.

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