MASON, Ohio — Mason City School District officials are trying to help students who have been coping with the consequences of the pandemic from their homes.
It's been more than a year since some students have set foot in a school, but the district started laying the groundwork for supporting the mental health of its students four years ago. At the time, several students went to administrators and asked for more resources to be devoted to their mental health.
Since then, the district started a program that pushed back school start times, grading practices were changed to reduce unhealthy competition and therapy dogs were brought in to comfort students.
That program is expanding this year. Now, a suicide prevention program will be accessible to fifth- and sixth-grade students. There is also a new Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer suicide-prevention program, available to middle schoolers in the district for the first time.
"Every single one of our students coming through our doors has undergone some level of trauma, and so have our staff," Mason City Schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson said. "So many of us are wanting desperately to be back to normal, and yet normal has changed. This is going to be the new normal that we're all learning to live with."