By Erin Jones

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas ISD students are getting ready to head back to school next week — and the district’s mental health professionals expect there will be some dealing with emotions triggered by the pandemic. They’ve come up with a plan.

“This year is going to look different but we’re ready,” Dallas ISD Mental Health Services Executive Director Dianna Smoot said.

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Dual Language Gifted & Talented Kindergarten, 1st Grade Teacher Alejandra Ramos Gomez said her students have been through a lot. First, a tornado destroying their school last October. Then having to move to a temporary building. And now – the coronavirus pandemic.

“There was a lot of adapting and trying to be positive though all of those changes,” said Gomez.

She is now preparing to welcome students back for a new school year – both in person and virtually. And this year, she’ll start her days by checking in with students.

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“The first thing that we’re going to do is have a sharing circle, what we call a morning circle, here we focus on social, emotional learning,” Gomez said. “It is our priority. We cannot move to the academic portion without giving them an opportunity to share how they’re feeling, to understand their emotions and to also build that community.”

On top of this, the school district is adding 50 clinicians who are ready to respond to mental health needs of students and their families. Right now, they’re offering services virtually. There are 12 different clinics located throughout the district. There will also be a parent engagement department that will be hosting an online conference for parents.

“We just really want our community to know that if you need help navigating these new feelings, these new challenges, there’s absolutely supports in place,” Smoot said.

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If you are a Dallas ISD student or parent in need of mental health support — the district encourages reaching out now.

Erin Jones