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Parent says in-person, virtual learning changes causing 'mental roller coaster'

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Posted at 5:34 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 17:34:43-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Up until late Tuesday afternoon, Jennifer Farmer thought her daughter would soon get some relief from the anxiety and depression she has experienced because of virtual learning.

But, in an email, Henrico Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell, told parents the system would once again delay its return to in-person learning because school nurses are needed to help Virginia's vaccination efforts.

"I feel like our kids and the parents are on a mental roller coaster," Farmer said. "It sure isn't helping the mental health aspect of things for our children who thought there was some hope and an end in sight."

Farmer's daughter, Kyleigh, is seeing a counselor and taking medication to get her through these trying times.

The 14-year-old was featured in a CBS 6 investigation about the impact of virtual learning on kids' mental health.

The Director of School Counseling for Henrico County Public Schools, Liz Parker, said Kyleigh is not alone.

"We definitely have seen increases, and we are seeing new students who typically were receiving more tier 1 interventions have a great need for those tier 2 and tier 3 interventions," Parker said.

Parker said her team is here to help.

She is encouraging parents and students to reach out to school counselors to take advantage of the virtual counseling services they offer.

"We actually have engagement teams, where our school based mental health providers are a part of, and they are constantly looking at and evaluating student engagement and then reaching out and trying to make connections with those students who we've seen engagement drop off," Parker said.

It's not just students who are struggling right now.

Across town in Chesterfield, Shannon Macaulay, an English teacher at Meadowbrook High School, said the uncertainty surrounding whether she will have to go back to teaching in-person caused her to seek help.

"For me personally, a lot of it is the up in the air. We're in, we're out, we're in, we're out, pivot," Macaulay said.

News that Chesterfield will open up in-person learning to elementary school students on February 1st put her even more on edge.

"It definitely sounds like they're feeling an urgency in getting students back in the building," Macaulay said. "I definitely would feel safer having had both rounds of the vaccination."

Chesterfield has not announced when in person learning will open up to middle and high school students.