Middlesex County examining students’ welfare in wake of 2020

The Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners have appointed County Commissioner Chanelle Scott McCullum; Mark Finkelstein, superintendent of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey and vice-chair of the Middlesex College Board of Trustees; and Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone to perform a comprehensive overview of the challenges to social and emotional wellbeing being faced by students in the 2021-2022 school year.

The announcement was made at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of County Commissioners on August 5.

This initiative will evaluate and determine the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of K-12 and higher education students as they return to school in September following the 2020-2021 school year, which consisted primarily of remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As students were impacted in multiple ways by COVID-19 and the closure of schools, it is critical that we are mindful of their emotional and social wellbeing as they transition back to in-person learning this fall. And while it’s important to recognize that, even in these trying times, students, families, educators, staff, administrators and so many others in school districts, did their best to adjust to remote learning—the challenges brought forth by the global pandemic are profound,” said Rios.

“Returning to a more structured environment following a year of learning remotely, or hybrid schedules, students will be facing unprecedented challenges every day. With the appointment of this panel, our goal is to gather information to help us better address the needs of students and families in our communities as many of our students will be returning to full-time, in-person instruction,” said McCullum.

“The challenges faced over the past year and a half in education were unlike any we’ve seen in a very long time. With students returning to full-time in-person learning this fall, it’s important that we fully understand what kind of trauma and mental health problems students are struggling with to implement programs that help them readjust to school and reconnect with their peers,” said Finkelstein.

“I’m proud to be part of this important initiative to understand the issues that are facing our youth today. From loss of learning, chronic absenteeism, social disorders, anxiety and other challenges, these are some of the byproducts of an extraordinary year of flux and uncertainty. Deeper insights into our students’ mental health will help educators be more impactful, successful in schooling our youth and most critically, train them to be more empathetic as students acclimate back to normalcy,” said Ciccone.

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