By Superintendent Addison Davis

As school districts across the nation contend with a new wave of an ever-changing pandemic, we as educators must remind our students and ourselves of the importance of mental wellness. Our learners are grappling with difficult issues such as social isolation and family instability. Hillsborough County Public Schools is not only re-educating our student body about the supports in place but increasing efforts to ensure our students feel safe and healthy.

Although it is our job to be instructional leaders to prepare learners for graduation, it is just as important for educators to act as a compass for students in need. Many learners are filled with anxiety and battling depression during this time of turmoil. For this reason, I would like to remind families about the multitude of free mental wellness supports provided by our district.

Our school sites have counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, mental health clinicians and multiple trusted adults that can be called upon whether a student is experiencing a true crisis or simply needs to share their feelings. When needed, our Student Services teams work in tandem with a variety of community partners to provide additional specialized assistance.

Hillsborough County Public Schools is adding therapists to more than 100 of our schools this semester as we expect an increase in need for students in all grade bands. Whether learners are experiencing trauma due to bullying, harassment, or COVID-19, we stand ready to provide experts who can guide them through this tumultuous time.

In addition, our district staff is working directly with principals as we begin this semester to reintroduce all learners to their Student Services staff on campus. It is important to remind learners who can help and how to gain access to these resources when needed.

We will continue successful emotional wellness initiatives such as Sandy Hook Promise and provide district-wide school-based presentations to students about who to call upon when they need help. These proactive strategies will offer much-needed support to families as they, too, contend with impactful changes in nearly every aspect of their lives.

I encourage all parents and guardians to talk to your children and offer your own support, as we cannot do this in isolation. Oftentimes, just knowing they have additional encouragement is a relief when challenging times arise. We will strive to continue to provide the best learning environment possible while promoting positive mental wellness for all.

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