coronavirus pandemic

Kids' Mental Health Tested During Pandemic Year

All week we're looking at the coronavirus pandemic's affect on schools, students and teachers

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Think about all the time in the day that kids spend at school, or on the playground. When you take it away and it's just too much.

"My favorite thing is art, I miss my teacher, she's my favorite," said six-year-old Cecily Patterson.

Last March it started to sink in for students. Many of them waved goodbye to friends and teachers for spring break and no one could tell them when they'd see them again.

"This morning we had a zoom call, that’s another thing her school is doing with her classmates, and when the call was over she started crying, said Cecily's mom Cinnamon.

She never went back to that classroom, school was just done for the year. There were no parties, no goodbyes. 

Teachers worked to try something, anything, to help.  

White Rock Elementary's Catherine Needham wasn't afraid to get on the floor and put on a puppet show daily for her kindergarteners.

From puppets to paintings we saw teachers get creative in ways to help their students not feel so robbed of their normal life.

Makayla Roach, a teacher in the Dallas Independent School District, hit gold by simply taking out a pen and paper and writing a personal note to every one of her 150 students.

"I felt special and I cried," said Neyda Garcia, middle school student, after she read the note.

As the summer wore on many students hoped to finally put this all past them but school was delayed,  parents and their teachers were arguing, and when they finally did get back -- they couldn't touch or get close to anyone.

"They're worried about who I am in this social setting will I be able to do things that have been milestones and markers in the past," said Cynthia Bethany, counselor, Fort Worth ISD. 

Counselors say the stress wasn't just in the building though they were hearing about people dying and rising case numbers. 

"Kids hear bits of information and they don’t know how to translate that in their kid's brain," said therapist Anastasia Taylor.

School districts turned into spies looking at google searches on devices trying to make sure they spotted kids who were depressed and it saved some lives.

"They got an alert from my daughter's computer that they had been looking at key phrases like 'kill myself, suicide' anything along the lines of self-harm," said one Frisco ISD parent.

The snowstorm and power failure flooded school buildings prompting more change, more loss and entire classrooms were ruined. 

Kids bounced back but in many districts, the number of students learning from home is still high and that's concerning to counselors who have a hard time knowing how they're mentally coping with this year.   

Counselors say of the students in the classroom, they're seeing more smiles, and it's reassuring as they move forward.

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