PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN) — "It's been pretty tough at our schools across the board," said Tucson Unified Social Emotional Learning and Development Director, Julie Shivanonda.
Shivanonda has first-hand knowledge of the effect the pandemic has had on children.
"Our students are still getting re-acclimated to being on campus, relearning how to socialize with one another and really just figuring out how to move throughout their day," said Shivanonda.
Many students' positive progress is halted when someone in the school gets COVID. Some are then asked to quarantine and continue learning from home.
"Being at home, then being at school, back and forth and vice versa, has been pretty hard on students, hard on teachers and hard on the families, as well," said Shivanonda.
Pima County's recent acceptance of a $6.8 Million grant could help students and educators who test positive for COVID.
"Those wrap around support service include things like transportation, housing and lodging. Most importantly, our prioritization has been towards behavioral health," said Pima County Health Department COVID Schools Liaison, Brian Eller.
According to the CDC, more than 140,000 kids in the U.S. have lost a caregiver to COVID. The Pima County Health Department is brainstorming ways schools can support kids through that trauma.
"Some of the things we've heard, so far, are group therapy sessions. Instead of using 'therapy', maybe a better word would be 'group discussions.' It would be for individuals who tested positive. They would navigate the trauma they've experienced over the last 18 to 19 months," said Eller.
The grant is available to Pima County schools through May 2022.
"I think that the long-term implications of the trauma are something that we are going to see repercussions for an extended period of time. This grant is a really great way to start to take steps to address that," said Eller.