students in classroom

It's been a school year like no other in recent memory -- combining the challenge of remote and hybrid learning for millions with the agony and strain of a pandemic that has killed more than 600,000.

Mental health has taken a toll on many students and staff alike.

One Ohio school district will welcome back students with more counselors and social workers on hand. Hilliard City Schools in Columbus has added seven new school counselors, up to 42, and 10 more social workers, for 15 total, Director of Student Well-Being Mike Abraham told ABC News.

"Anxiety has always been high with this generation," Abraham said. "With the pandemic, some students have become very comfortable with isolation, not having to deal with the anxiety that school might bring or their peers bring. That's what all districts are dealing with coming back now that these kids are together -- giving them strategies to be able to deal with their anxiety, to deal with whatever mental health issues that they're struggling with."

The school district, which has nearly 17,000 students, is tapping into federal relief money earmarked for K-12 public schools to pay for the new positions.

Last month, Iowa officials announced the state is launching a new pre-K-12 school mental health center that would expand training and resources that support mental health needs in schools.

The Iowa Department of Education is putting $20 million in federal pandemic relief toward the center, which aims to "address the impact pandemic-related disruptions have had on students and will focus on strengthening mental health support moving forward," Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said in a statement.

 

And the Miami-Dade County school district is exploring using federal relief funds to hire more mental health clinicians as most of the district's 334,000 students are expected to return to in-person learning this fall, the Miami Herald reported last month.

Other initiatives targeting school culture include adding mental health as an excused absence. That will be the case for Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland's largest school district, starting in the fall, Board of Education member Patricia O’Neill told ABC News Washington, DC, affiliate WJLA.

"I think coming off the pandemic this year, adults and students recognize the challenges that mental health has brought about," O’Neill told the station. "We had to figure out how to make this change and elevate the importance of mental health, as it may be a barrier to learning."

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