MCPS and Poolesville High School have implemented student wellness initiatives to improve student’s social and mental health, including homeroom wellness presentations, FIT time, and Wednesday office hours. These measures come after COVID-19 closures have resulted in concerns over students’ social, emotional, and mental health.
Homeroom lessons stem from MCPS’s Be Well 365 initiative. According to the MCPS webpage, its goals are for a greater student sense of well-being, improved academic achievement, greater student engagement with school, improved attendance, and reduced disciplinary offenses.
Be Well 365 initiatives have been implemented through students’ homeroom lessons every Tuesday. According to Resource Counselor Barbara Martin, some lessons are designed by the county, while others are chosen by schools from a bank of lessons. Wellness lessons taught at Poolesville, including those on stress management and coping skills, were specifically chosen because of students’ rigorous course loads.
However, opinions towards homeroom lessons were mixed. “Homeroom has been useful as it’s forced necessary conversations on many uncomfortable topics. Some slideshows have scraped only the surface of important issues, and I think going forward it would be helpful to go a little deeper,” junior Sophie Elliott said.
“I can’t say it’s been crazy effective but it’s obviously not making me more stressed,” sophomore Nikhita Karthikesan said.
On the contrary, many students have expressed the benefits of FIT time. “FIT’s been pretty effective, as it’s given me an opportunity to have a break from organized instruction during the school day,” Elliott said.
“I actually really like FIT because it gives me an extra break time to rest or catch up on work,” Karthikesan said.
Many of these initiatives have come from concerns for student wellness now that students and counselors can’t interact in person. The Counseling Department has adapted to online learning by meeting with students through zoom meetings, emails, and phone calls. But despite counselors’ efforts, meeting with students online has been more difficult than in person. Mrs. Martin emphasized that students can’t simply pop into the counseling office to talk to their counselor. Scheduling counseling meetings puts more responsibility on students because students need to reach out to counselors. Additionally, counselors have been worried that there are students the counselors don’t know about that are struggling.
Counselors also have concerns about staff wellness through online learning. Martin noted that staff has been forced to teach an entirely different way. “This isn’t why a teacher went into teaching,” Martin said.
MCPS has provided COVID-19 supports on its website, including resources on stress and anxiety management, COVID-19 stigma and racism, mindfulness, and maintaining healthy routines.