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Our stories: Starting the new school year
August 25, 2020

School psychologists are facing a school year full of unknowns. PAR reached out to three different professionals to find out how they are adapting and what advice they have for others as they embark on a very different kind of school year.

Tamara Engle-Weaver, MS

Certified school psychologist, Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 Sensory Impaired Program, Pennsylvania

I have classrooms located in more than one school district. Our districts are creating their own plans for the school year. Some are doing hybrid; some are face-to-face. Given that our classrooms are intermediate unit special education classrooms, they will most likely be operating 5 days per week with face-to-face instruction.

I plan to use a lot of technology this year. I will be trying to utilize virtual methodology as much as I can to reduce the amount of time I am in the classroom. I don’t feel the schools will be encouraging additional bodies to be in the classrooms. I will try to create social skill videos for my students that teachers can present at their leisure.

When you are on an airplane, they tell you to take care of yourself before you help the person you are with. I think that will be critical this year because there will be many students and staff who will be struggling with all aspects of coping with this virus. If we are not in a healthy mental state, we will not be able to help others achieve one either. We all need to do our best to care for ourselves and be compassionate and patient with others.

Maria Isabel Soriano-Lemen, PhD, RPsy
Director, Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services, Philippines

We are doing 100% online classes this year here in the Philippines. I usually ask students to work with a partner to come up with a psychological report that includes these areas of functioning: cognitive, psychological, emotional, behavioral, interpersonal, and interpersonal. So that requires them to work with different tests. I am at a loss at how to teach students to score their test results. I’m also concerned with access to testing materials and how students will be supervised. At this time, I really don’t know what to do. Classes will start in November.

Heather Bravener, DEd

School psychologist, Duncannon, Pennsylvania

At this time, parents have been given the choice to enroll in either the district’s cyber program or attend school for face-to-face instruction 5 days a week. We are a small district with three buildings on the same campus with graduating class sizes of approximately 140. The area’s COVID numbers are currently in the low range, which allows for the reopening of school with face-to-face instruction while implementing recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.

My colleague and I are determining how to best complete assessments with students for the upcoming year in light of the pandemic. Considerations include wearing a mask, use of a plexiglass divider, a pencil for each student to use and then take with them, using a plastic screen to cover the manual, and use of disinfectant wipes. We are also considering the use of digital assessments.

Once schools closed in March, I had to balance completing my job at home while supporting my daughter during remote learning. It was quite a challenge and I can empathize with parents out there who are struggling to assist their child in learning.

As school psychologists, we are in a unique position where our roles may change significantly this fall. Flexibility will be key!