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LJISD District Counselor Miriam Tellez has seen a need for counselors now more than ever.
Since the La Joya Independent School District announced they would be closing campuses in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Counseling Department has been hard at work developing and implementing a new plan for remote services. Tellez said it was a swift adjustment – she went from heading to Central Office Administration or a district campus daily to working diligently from home.
“At all levels – elementary, middle school and high school – all our counselors are providing counseling services, either individual or group sessions,” Tellez said. “Each one of the campuses at the elementary and middle school level have virtual counseling lessons for students to deal with either their academic needs or their mental health needs.”
Counseling is a paramount need at school campuses. Counselors provide students and parents with help in their daily lives as well as their future prospects, offering a specialized kind of support that makes up a child’s relationship with their education.
Now, after the district closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of students and faculty, LJISD has set up virtual counseling. They offer services over the phone, through email, Google Classroom and Google Hangouts.
“We’re also making sure that all our students in the Special Education Department that require Special Ed. counseling are being taken care of – they’re following along, and we’re ensuring that all kids are receiving their accommodations through 504,” Tellez said. “We have updated our district website and campus websites with information for parents regarding COVID-19 and online resources.”
The initial transition was jarring, according to Tellez.
“Right now we’re more at ease,” Tellez said, noting the first week felt a bit chaotic. “Our high school counselors are working with every single one of our students, not only seniors.”
Tellez noted that students, along with their parents, may be feeling an uncharacteristic amount of stress in these unprecedented times.
“They’re just like adults,” Tellez said of the stress kids are feeling. “We have been providing these services since day one to ensure they are helped.”
Looking at the positives ahead has been a good way for students to remain connected and focused on the good that is still to come. The Counseling Dept. has set up a virtual Decision Day on May 1 so senior LJISD students can meet through a video conference and declare where they will be attending college in the fall, and the district will be hosting a virtual Scholarship Event on May 12.
“Our priority right now is making sure all our senior students are taken care of,” Tellez said. “Our superintendent has officially put out three tentative graduation dates, so of course we are also in the process of helping out with that.”
Tellez said she was proud of all the district counselors, who she noted haven’t skipped a beat. While the regular office hours are typically 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tellez stated that several counselors are working around the clock, even after hours, to ensure every need is met.
“Even though we’re not in school, our students need to be served,” Tellez said. “Every single counselor logs in, and we can tell you every single student who has been contacted from day one.”
Because students may be dealing with complicated family situations at home, counseling services are still quite important even when conducted remotely. Tellez has seen the need in LJISD especially.
“We’ve also included community resources because it is a stressful situation,” Tellez said. “Whether you have parents who have unfortunately been displaced from jobs, or if we are returning to schools, we don’t know. At all levels, students to parents to teachers, it is an anxious time, and services are very much needed.”
The LJISD Counseling Dept. has also provided resources to staff and faculty so they can also receive counseling. Counselors are also keeping in contact with parents.
“We’re talking to them and helping them adjust to this period,” Tellez said. “It is difficult, it’s difficult to do your work and service your children, so at all levels of personnel are having to adjust.”
For those heading to college in the fall, LJISD has set up virtual GO Centers and have college transition specialists who continue to serve every student and ensure everything is in place, including financial aid. Tellez has noticed an uptick in service requests and referrals for older students, particularly seniors, who are anxious about the current situation.
“We have seen a need for older students, I think the stress is building up,” Tellez said. “Not only are they missing their friends and events at school, it’s just the fact that we’re under a stay-at-home order. We cannot have that communication, and they’re isolated. Not everyone handles the situation the same way, so counseling services are more important than ever.”
Tellez meets with all campus counselors weekly to ensure everything is running smoothly and services are readily available to all.
“Teachers are continuing to provide counseling referrals to counselors stating different needs,” Tellez noted. “So the counselor will reach out to the student.”
She stressed that the LJISD Counseling Dept. is working together as a team to keep communication normal, even in an isolated setting.
“It’s unbelievable how resilient everyone is,” Tellez said. “We’ve seen a lot of fantastic things come out from all our personnel, and everyone has been working to ensure our students continue to receive the services they always do.”
All contacts for counselors at the LJISD can be found at the district and campus websites. Tellez can be reached via email at [email protected]