In the COVID-19 era, school closures that last for an extended period are a major source of disruption. Children’s and families lives have been turned upside down due to school closings, and educators have had to figure out how to provide distance learning. Health and mental health services, food assistance, obesity prevention and intervention in situations of homelessness and abuse are all critical non-academic supports provided by schools (Gracy et al.12). Schools closing and students losing access to non-academic resources have a toll on students’ physical and mental health, which is the topic of this article. Each year’s COVID-19 epidemic focuses on the importance of schools in serving the non-academic needs of students. Researchers believe that when students return to school, the need for non-academic services and support will be more severe and widespread.
According to theory and data, schools closing or restricting social connections between children and adolescents may harm students in many ways. Students’ access to school services, including food, health care, and menstrual hygiene products, is negatively impacted when schools close. Reduced monitoring for child abuse and neglect may be linked to the loss of schools as another aspect of the safety net that protects children (Reimers and Schleicher 6). Other factors include a decrease in social interaction between children and adolescents and relevant adults, such as teachers; this separates adolescents from social support and diminishes cognitive and social growth possibilities. The loss of familiar and cherished activities and the protective benefits of being connected to school may have direct correlations with mental health and well-being, in addition to the decline in social interactions (Gracy et al. 9). The absence of physical exercise from school sports and active transportation may also give rise to various associations in the student population.
Challenges face both governments and educational institutions when it comes to meeting children’s social and emotional needs and ensuring that those pupils who are most at risk continue to get supplemental services (Belhadjer et al. 432). When schools are closed, numerous nations have made efforts to meet the well-being requirements of a variety of student populations who are particularly vulnerable. With online technologies like Zoom, students may keep in touch with classmates for educational and social purposes (National Association of School Psychologists 1). Social isolation may be particularly harmful to students from broken or abusive homes, in foster care, hungry, or lack a secure home.
Students who do not have the support of their families or communities may have a difficult time obtaining the necessary hormones and emotional or psychological support, which may have a problematic effect on their academic performance. In providing this assistance, it is critical to consider the crisis’s gender component (Reimers and Schleicher 6). For example, when schools are closed, females face more threats than boys. In addition, men and women are more likely to experience gender-based violence and sexual assault as a result of greater home obligations (Belhadjer et al. 4329). All of these things may have differing effects on the well-being of boys and girls.
A healthy social life outside of school may also be challenging for immigrant or refugee kids who have not yet completely assimilated into their new communities (Gracy et al. 9). This is because they lack the opportunities provided by their school lives. In addition, this lack of socialization, or socialization that is mediated by online tools, may result in specific difficulties for students with SEN (National Association of School Psychologists 1). This is particularly the case for students with social and communication issues, such as autism spectrum disorder or learning difficulties.
Across the country, children and adults alike are stressed out by various social and family upheavals. These stressors include family member death or illness, social isolation, unsettling news, parental job stress or loss, and parents forced to teach while working from home or delivering important community services. Moreover, even after a pandemic has been handled, students’ physical and mental well-being demands will be even more severe because of the concurrent social, emotional, and financial strains that will continue for some time after the crisis is over.
As a result of the COVID-19 issue, schools can no longer play an important role in helping children establish a pattern of going to school and interacting with their classmates and teachers in a secure setting. This involves making sure that students have easy access to necessities like food and medical care and recognizing any risks to their safety. The lack of access to education experts for children and teenagers and the closure of safe places in the home might raise the risk of neglect, deprivation, abuse, and maladaptive psychosocial effects due to the prolonged absence of schooling. Face-to-face education has declined in importance, and governments in the area, via their Ministry of Education (MoE), are responding to the demands of the region’s youth through the provision of MHPSS to students, their parents or caregivers and instructors.
School closures due to COVID-19 will have a detrimental effect on diverse categories of pupils. With these additional COVID-19 pressures, low-income Americans, particularly those from minority groups like Blacks, Hispanics or Native Americans, are experiencing much more stress than they currently do. Moreover, many schools in economically challenged communities already had fewer resources to address children’s needs before COVID-19. As a result, students will disproportionately feel the effect of school closures. In addition, blacks and Native Americans are more likely to develop and die from COVID-19 than other Americans, mostly because of the greater frequency of concomitant health disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma in these populations. People from low-income neighbourhoods and ethnic minorities, for example, may be more affected by COVID-19.
Student’s Dependent on School Mental Programs and Services
Children from low-income families, obese children, and children at risk of abuse and neglect rely on school-based medical and mental health care (Belhadjer et al. 432). Non-academic needs of kids are being met as best they can during this time of school shutdown, although their capacity to do so is restricted. Disruptions in the health care that school-aged children get from school nurses and school health centers are inevitable. It’s the same for children who get mental health treatment in the school setting. When schools are closed, school nurses may support families and remain in touch with pupils with medical issues. Many school nurses work with local hospitals and health boards, testing, contact tracing, and direct treatment. If required, school-based health clinics may coordinate treatment with additional clinicians. They may also utilize telemedicine to perform normal and mental health services, including refilling medicines, arranging psychiatrist visits, and providing psychotherapy sessions (Reimers and Schleicher 12). School psychologists, counselors, and social workers may also employ this technology, although to what extent is uncertain. During COVID-19, professional groups will provide resources and guidance on delivering school-based mental health services, including telehealth.
The lack of structure at home, lack of activity, and easy access to food during the protracted school closure may put children at higher risk for unhealthy weight gain than during the school year. Children who lack food are more prone to obesity than their peers who have enough (Gracy et al. 10). School districts have created food distribution facilities to help kids’ families. The USDA has given several states permission to provide meals to all children under 18, not just those formerly qualified for free lunches. During school cancellations, school districts may be able to help some hungry children, but not everyone. The demand for food assistance from local pantries has expanded due to enormous job losses caused by school closures.
Closing schools in COVID-19 would inevitably increase family violence and child abuse. During this stressful time, primary caregivers spend time with children. More than ever, school districts encourage parents to act as educators and help teachers deliver lessons. Also, losing control, work uncertainty, job loss, and job stress associated with being vital burdens parents/caregivers (Reimers and Schleicher 8). Due to social distance, teachers, daycare providers, extended family members, and babysitters cannot assist parents. At the same time, mandatory reporters like school personnel cannot identify, monitor, and connect homeless teens to crucial services and assistance. Finally, the pandemic’s economic effects are expected to increase the number of homeless pupils, making it even more vital for schools to aid and accommodate these youngsters. These characteristics will likely increase the number of students needing mental health and social help.
Recommendation and Policies
School closures during COVID-19 have left students with greater barriers to learning than they had before COVID-19. This pandemic focuses on the necessity of schools to support children’s non-academic needs and the need for proper resourcing for these programs in the aftermath of this epidemic and continuingly during normal periods (The World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF 4). A new window of opportunity has opened up for programmatic and policy improvements to serve better students, particularly low-income ones, who need non-academic services and assistance.
The need for school-based health and mental health experts will rise after COVID-19. Schools must recruit enough staff to meet returning pupils’ physical and mental health needs. In the United States, only a small number of school districts have access to on-site health care services. As previously stated, school nurses are in short supply, and there is a shortage of mental health workers. When students are reintegrated into school, school mental health doctors must first engage with teachers and other school officials to identify those who need support. They must then offer to counsel and collaborate with community-based providers to coordinate the required services (Dalton et al. 345). This means that telemedicine may now be utilized daily to give youngsters physical and mental health help due to the widespread use of smartphones. Using telehealth services to reach children in far-flung regions should be a priority. Broadband Internet access will have to be developed first for telehealth to be widely available.
More resources are needed in times of crisis to promote equality, inclusion, and general well-being for vulnerable kids. If implemented, it can improve the lives of children from low-income families and prevent educational inequities from worsening. Several governments, notably the United States, have developed initiatives to give financial aid to these kids, frequently in collaboration with community groups and using emergency money (Dalton et al. 345). Many children have benefited from these initiatives, whether they could return home to their families safely or were able to receive some of the necessities provided by their school, such as free meals.
The provision of essential non-academic services and support by educational institutions has had a significant role in lowering the number of obstacles faced by students. Because of the protracted school closures brought on by COVID-19, the lives of millions of families have been turned upside down, including the loss of access to this essential aid. As a result of their absence, COVID-19 has highlighted the significance of non-academic services and support for children’s overall health and happiness. As a result of COVID-19, children and their families will return to school with even greater needs than before their time in COVID-19. To meet this impending challenge and provide better care for America’s future generations, state, federal, and local politicians must provide schools with the necessary training and funding.
Belhadjer, Zahra, et al. “Acute heart failure in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children in the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.” Circulation 142.5 (2020): 429-436.
This article outlines the current health stats of students during the school closure period and what needs to be done to keep students active and mental health.
Dalton, Louise, Elizabeth Rapa, and Alan Stein. “Protecting the psychological health of children through effective communication about COVID-19.” The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 4.5 (2020): 346-347.
The article indicates the importance of students’ mental health and how school play a major role in protecting it. In addition, it offers information on how the community, teachers, and parents can help students maintain mental and physical health during the school closure.
Gracy, Delaney, et al. “Health barriers to learning: A survey of New York City public school leadership.” Sage Open 4.1 (2014): 2158244013520613.
The articles offer education states before the pandemic that help understand the drastic changes and how to handle the current state of schools and pandemic impacts.
National Association of School Psychologists. “Virtual service delivery in response to COVID-19 disruptions.” NASP Online (2020).
The article is essential in understanding the education shift to the online platform and students’ view of the changes and their impacts.
Reimers, F., and A. Schleicher. “Schooling disrupted, schooling rethought.” How the COVID-19 Pandemic is Changing Education. Retrieved December 14 (2020): 2020.
The article offers the information necessary to understand the school closure, its impacts and recommendation on the way forward.
The World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF. “The State Of The Global Education Crisis: A Path To Recovery.” (2021). https://www.unicef.org/media/111621/file/%20The%20State%20of%20the%20Global%20Education%20Crisis.pdf%20.pdf
This report from the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF outline the state of education during and after the emergency of COVID19. In addition, the report offers detailed information on actions taken by education institutions, their results and government intervention.