October 4, 2020

With distance learning starting again, Ballard feels it is important for students to have a safe place to open up about emotions.

“Just having an outlet where these students could go to talk about worries or just even talk about any drops in mood, might be good, just talking about it and normalizing the fact that ‘yeah, this school year is really different,’” Ballard said. “People have feelings about it or have feelings about missing their sports or missing their activities. It’s helpful having that open door to talk about all these mixed feelings.”

Staff at Park have adjusted their resources to support students and implement methods similar to the ones Ballard mentioned. Senior guidance counselor Laura King said a large part of forming a successful distance learning environment is creating connections between students and teachers. 

“I really want to just state that we’re here to help. We are first and foremost student advocates,” King said. “A student reaching out to us is not seen as a burden, or an inconvenience, we welcome and appreciate it, frankly we’re honored that they are trusting us with some of their challenges.” 

Sophomore guidance counselor Kelsey Milne, said throughout the teacher workshop week before the school year began, staff at Park dedicated time to prepare for the new issues and concerns that have been arising from the pandemic.

A student reaching out to us is not seen as a burden, or an inconvenience, we welcome and appreciate it, frankly we’re honored that they are trusting us with some of their challenges.”

— Laura King

“We encourage students to reach out to us, however they prefer when they’re having issues, and then we are happy to help and happy to help them find resources,” Milne said.

Park Connections, a 30-minute daily class, gives teachers the opportunity to do check-ins with students on a multitude of areas and talk about social issues or students’ emotional well being according to King.

“Building the community and having support was a huge goal of the program, and I think it’s been accomplished, and I’m positive that it will continue this year. While the expectations are still high, there is also that compassion of recognizing everybody’s learning environment is different,” King said.  

Through these unprecedented times, Milne said Park staff are here to offer their help, support and to provide relief to students who are struggling, as it is important to her that students reach out if needed. 

“We are continuing to come up with resources that would help students get referred to us as counselors, as well we’ve got social workers, and the Learning Lab is going to be open for help. There’s going to be a lot of different ways people are going to be helping to support students when they need it,” Milne said. 

Taking into consideration all the changes because of the pandemic, Milne is hopeful to create a positive working atmosphere throughout the school year. 

“I have been extraordinarily impressed with our staff at the high school, and how hard everyone is working, and how passionate everyone is about student success and making it a positive school year,” Milne said. “We’re really lucky at St. Louis Park to have such a strong community and such strong teachers and strong staff members.”

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