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Palm Coast Friday, Mar. 20, 2020 4 months ago

Flagler Schools prepares to offer virtual mental health counseling for students

Also: How will schools maintain a sense of community despite the forced isolation?
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Flagler Schools is preparing for virtual learning beginning March 30, but what about mental health counseling and other guidance services?

There is a plan for that.

John Fanelli, coordinator of student supports and behavior, said the district is considering different virtual platforms with which students will be able to “hear and see their guidance counselor or mental health counselor and speak with them directly.”

Students who have been work directly with counselors in the past are in the district's database, and they have their own weekly appointments already set up, so the district can reach out to them and create a similar schedule using a virtual platform.

“If a new student or a parent says, ‘My child needs to talk to somebody,' we’re working on setting up a system to address those referrals through email or the phone,” Fanelli said.

In the meantime, if your child or grandchild needs to talk to someone, Flagler Schools’ Yasmin Figueras is coordinating those requests. Call her at 437-7526, ext. 1268, or email [email protected].


Staff adjustments

In addition to finding strategies for effective online learning, the district is also exploring plans for reassigning some employees, according to Community Information Specialist Jason Wheeler.

“If we’re not transporting kids, what do our bus drivers do?” Wheeler said. “And (Superintendent Jim Tager) wants to make sure all of our employees continue to work and continue to get paid. That’s the discussion right now among the executive team.”

Food Services employees won’t be serving lunch in cafeterias, but they will be serving food at grab-and-go locations.

He added that the district is funded through the school year, so there isn’t a danger of employees going unpaid.


A sense of community

Jason Wheeler, community information specialist

One challenge with virtual learning is how to maintain a sense of community, Wheeler said.

He said he recently shared a list of 20 ideas that principals can employ to keep school spirit high. For example, during a school spirit week, families can post pictures on social media of their children wearing their school T-shirts.

“How do we maintain that sense of community when we’re spread out all over the place?” he said. “I think that’s vital, to be honest with you. Our families are connected with their schools.”

Already, Wheeler said, there is evidence of teachers and staff helping each other as part of the larger community among district employees.

“Our teachers will be prepared,” he said.

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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