School social workers help students work through emotions on first day of classes

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 4:09 PM CDT
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) – Tuesday marks the much-anticipated first day of school for a lot of children in northeast Wisconsin.

It may be virtual on in-person, but either way, it will bring new challenges and new emotions to kids, parents and staff members.

Now, school social workers are stepping up to help kids understand this new system of learning in a pandemic. With the excitement and anxiety that often comes with the start of classes, school social workers are expecting the coronavirus to compound those emotions.

“I think the first day, things will be great and kids will be excited and they’ll want to go and everything will be great, but then the second day, third day, it might set in a little bit for the kids, so just continuing to have those conversations... parents talking with their kids,” said Michelle Dahlke, a school social worker for the De Pere School District.

School is a sense of normal at a time where we haven’t seen much of anything feel like normal, but changing up classroom routines, even how they play at recess and where they eat lunch – may be difficult for some kids.

Social workers are expecting a wide range of emotions and behaviors.

“I think preparing them for those changes and talking positively about those changes will really help them be more successful in transitioning to school,” said Melanie Brick, another school social worker for the De Pere School District.

Social distancing has become a household term, but actually doing it may be hard, especially for younger kids, when they can’t hug their friends or high-five their teachers.

“Their hearts are broken about not being able to engage their kids and show them care and affection in ways they normally do, but they’re going to be creative with fancy elbow bumps and things like that,” said Brick.

“We’re going to be in the buildings and really being all hands on deck to help support the anxiety and different needs that are going to be coming across in that first couple weeks of school,” adds Dahlke. Brick and Dahlke are also seeing more families struggling in the last few months.

“I’ve been getting phone call after phone call from families unable to pay rent because they’re having a hard time not being able to go back to work because of people testing positive in their house,” said Brick.

The community turned out big for a supply drive for students in need this weekend, but they say they can still use more, especially monetary donations.

If you’d like to send checks or cash donations for school supplies you can do so by mailing them to:

Unified School District of De Pere

1700 Chicago St.

De Pere, WI


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