School counselors provide support to students from afar during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic may have closed schools, but that hasn’t stopped school counselors, psychologists and social workers from reaching out to provide students support at home.

In a letter sent to families April 10, support staff in the Greenport school district offered a reminder as they extended sympathy to families who may have lost a loved one to COVID-19: We are here for you.

“We were so sad to hear about so many of our students losing family members and not being able to support them the way we normally would have,” said Brandi Hopkins, guidance coordinator at Greenport High School.

The support team, Ms. Hopkins said last week, has had to adapt now that they’re working from home. “It’s about keeping a constant line of communication,” she said. Initially, support staff worked to determine which students were in need of access to meals and computers. 

School social worker Jillian Johnstone and psychologist Courtney Dubreuil have also reached out to students they regularly work with to continue assisting them during a time of great anxiety.

“This is definitely a first for everybody, but in a way it’s good that we’re all figuring it out together,” Ms. Hopkins said. “We are the support team, but the teachers, staff, administration and community have really stepped up. [Greenport] has always been a community where everybody looks out for everybody else.”

Not having students sitting in front of them has presented some challenges, Ms. Hopkins said. “We can’t see their faces and assess a situation. We now have to do it virtually,” she said.

She’s set up a Google Classroom page for each of her grade levels and asks students to check in by completing surveys. “In the survey, I ask if they’d like me to call or email them and if they say yes, take it from there,” she said. Support staff is relying on email, phone calls, the school website and Facebook pages to reach their students. “We’re trying to get the word out that we are still here, even though you can’t see us,” Ms. Hopkins said.

Superintendent David Gamberg said Monday that the initiative to open a line of communication with students is welcomed. “We’re constantly engaging each day and each week in looking at all aspects of this, from social-emotional to academic and all the ways students are being impacted, from elementary through high school,” he said, adding, “We can’t wait for a tragic call from someone.

“Even the most unsuspecting students who are well adjusted and high achieving can start experiencing sadness, loneliness and despair because the rug is pulled out from under them,” Mr. Gamberg said, noting that the counselors are “very perceptive” to reaching out to all students.

The “new normal” that has emerged means students are facing a realm of challenges that take precedent over their school work. Ms. Hopkins would advise students who may be struggling to remember that they aren’t alone. “We’re all in this together. This is something we’re all trying to navigate and figure out,” she said.

She likes to remind her students to stay active and healthy and reach out to their own support systems, whether that’s someone they trust at school, at home or one of their friends. “I tell my students that I’m not immune. There are days when I feel sad and worried, but nobody is alone.”

Greenport students who need to talk to someone are asked to contact one of the following staff members by email and should include a phone number where they can be reached.

Brandi Hopkins, high school counselor: [email protected] 

Avery Reisig, middle and elementary counselor: [email protected]

Jillian Johnstone, social worker: [email protected]

Courtney Dubreuil, school psychologist: [email protected]

Sarah Mazzaferro, school nurse: [email protected]

Southold students are also encouraged to contact district support staff for help.

David Baryk, school psychologist, grades 7-12: [email protected]

Jennifer Moley, school psychologist, grades K-6: [email protected]

Jessica Santiago, school social worker, grades 7-12: [email protected]

Samantha Marciano, school social worker, grades K-6: [email protected]