NEW YORK - Kevin Brooks is a guidance counselor at The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters. He sees his work in the new school year as especially important.
“The role of a school counselor is more needed now than it has ever been because this is a reopening like no other,” he said.
There are about 3,000 guidance counselors in city public schools tending to students academic and emotional needs.
Qiana Spellman, a counselor at Brooklyn Preparatory High School in Williamsburg, says some of her students are still coping with grief and loss.
“We were getting informed weekly that students were losing family members or close friends of family. So with them dealing with that, it’s an emotional toll, most of them were able to push through and stay on top of their work,” Spellman explained.
The city department of education does not track how many students lost parents to COVID, but the number is believed to be at least several hundred.
One challenge for guidance counselors will be finding ways to interact with students who need support services. Ian Levy is vice president of the 1,400-member New York State School Counselor Association.
“There is so much uncertainty, we don’t know precisely how this is going to go, we might come back if it is in-person for a little bit but then back to completely online because there’s a breakout in a school,” Levy said.
Both Spellman and Brooks say they will use all tools at their disposal, from virtual meetings and emails to text messages and phone calls -- whatever it takes to help students.
“As soon as September hits, we have to be ready,” Brooks said.
“The job doesn’t change and that’s just the reality when you’re in education whether you’re a teacher or a counselor,” Levy added. “I believe you just figure it out. Whether that’s remote, we figure it out remotely. If that’s in the building, we figure it out in the building.”