By Norm Needleman, State Senator
(August 29, 2021) — I hope you are staying safe and healthy. The summer is quickly coming to a close and the start of the new school year is beginning. Please take a couple of minutes to read a back to school update including advice on helping students during the return to school, road safety tips, and supporting students’ mental health. Also, you will find a workforce and unemployment update at the end of this newsletter.
But first, I have a brief update regarding Hurricane Ida. Meteorologists predict the remnants of Hurricane Ida, currently causing severe damage in the South Gulf, are expected to come close enough to Connecticut that our state will likely see some impact. Wednesday into Thursday will see significant rain; the National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday afternoon, with possible significant flooding.
Back to School Tips
With the start of the 2021-22 school year, students may be returning to school in-person full time after hybrid and remote learning, or they may be starting classes for the first time. It’s important to make sure kids are ready to succeed in the classroom, and certain tips will help them be more comfortable.
- Make sure they know it’s ok to not know everything. Students new to school or returning for the first time in a while may not know where everything is in the school building, or they may need additional help working on projects. They may even feel overwhelmed or challenged in class. Encourage your children to ask for help when they need it, and to be vocal about how they feel. That way, they can receive aid and grow more comfortable as time goes on
- Help them by starting small. Back to school time can be overwhelming. By having a student focus on small goals, like learning the layout of the building or meeting their teacher, they can gain confidence and be more prepared to meet challenges that may arise
- Make sure they start the day right! By setting a daily routine, perhaps by creating a list of things they’ll need each day, your student can get into a good routine
- Help them out! Utilize any information the school releases and communicate with teachers and other school staff if you can. That way, you can be better prepared to answer any questions – and help your child should issues arise
- Make sure they’re open-minded and ready to take on what comes. Whether it’s through extracurriculars, making new friends or taking classes they’re potentially worried about, your student can tackle adversity head-on
Back to School Road Safety Tips
With schools starting up this week for the 2021-22 school year, it’s time to remember safety on the road is paramount when kids are heading to and from classrooms. School buses and parents will be taking the road while others head to work and some kids walk to school; here are some tips that will keep everyone safe.
According to the National Safety Council, if you’re dropping off your students at school, it’s important to avoid double-parking and moving, or leaving, your vehicle in a position where other children or other vehicles could have their views of the road blocked. Additionally, make sure you do not load or unload children across the street from the school, adding additional difficulty and danger making them cross in potentially unsafe areas. Carpooling can reduce the number of cars at the school, reducing traffic and potential for incidents.
When driving near a school, be careful. Most children who die in bus-related incidents are young walkers, usually no older than seven, who are hit by a bus or a motorist passing a bus illegally. Be sure to avoid blocking crosswalks, and stop and yield to pedestrians in school zones where flashers are blinking. Always stop for crossing guards and patrol officers; make sure you’re looking out for children in areas where they may be walking. Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians and never use your horn or engine to scare a pedestrian.
Buses will be on the road in force starting this week, so make sure you give buses space and safety, especially when driving behind them. Passing a stopped school bus is illegal in all 50 states. If necessary, plan alternative routes that do not see buses on them if you are concerned about your commute.
Young People and Mental Health: New Law to Help Students
and New Resource for College Students
Connecticut’s Senate Bill 2 Recognized By New York Times
Earlier this year, Connecticut passed Senate Bill 2, which reexamines how mental health is considered among youth and teens. With teens and children under increasing stress and experiencing higher rates of mental health issues, SB2 is seen as ahead of its time, as it allows students two mental health days off from school per year. When 78 percent of teens say mental health days allow students to prioritize their health, such a change will be valuable in many classrooms. I’m proud to have joined my Democratic colleagues in voting for this new policy. During times of increasing stress, it’s encouraging to know Connecticut is ahead of the curve in supporting today’s learners. Read more at the New York Times.
Focusing on Mental Health During Back to School
With as many as one in five children experiencing anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s key to focus on mental health during the back-to-school period. In addition to the anxieties of classes returning, students have not received relief from the pandemic. Here are tips from ABC News and the Child Mind Institute to help your child return to school with fewer worries.
- Talk with your children about their worries without pushing them. Talk to your children directly and tell them it’s OK for them to share those feelings. Parents are likely worried to some extent too – it’s important to communicate and talk about concerns, balanced with optimism, about the coming year.
- Some children may be used to spending a lot of time with parents and family due to remote learning and remote work. Make sure your child knows they’ll still get to spend time with family members and while they may feel lonely, they’ll have friends and classmates and teachers to spend their time with.
- If your child is worried about staying safe, talk with them about ways they can feel more comfortable, such as wearing masks or remembering to wash their hands regularly.
- Make sure they’re getting sleep, eating right and exercising. Basic wellness plays a key role in a student’s development and education.
Connecticut Higher Education Students to Have Free Access
to Mental Health Services
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities is partnering with TimelyMD, a telehealth company, to give students access to free telehealth options available 24/7. Students can access health and counseling services when they need them, with on-demand service to ensure they can receive guidance in tough times. The offering to students is available through the use of COVID-19 relief money. Students will also have access to unlimited health consultations and a dozen individual counseling sessions per year.
Workforce and Unemployment Update
CARES Act Additional Unemployment Benefits End September 4
The federal CARES Act, passed earlier this year to continue unemployment financial assistance payments to members of the public who lost work or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is currently scheduled to see those payments expire as of the week of September 4. Multiple benefit programs including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides a $300/week supplement for filers; Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation; Pandemic Unemployment Assistance; and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation. Additionally, Connecticut’s three-month average unemployment rate has fallen below 8%, which has triggered the end of High Extended Benefits, a seven-week extension that supports filers who exhaust regular and extended benefits programs. Connecticut has further seen reduced numbers of claimants filing for unemployment in recent months. Job searchers whose benefits are ending are advised to visit local American Job Centers in their region, which are open to the public and provide employment services including recruitment and employment services.
First Bonus Payments Through Back To Work CT Mailed This Week
More than 1,500 workers who found new employment since the Back to Work CT program began in May will receive $1,000 bonus payments this week. The Program provides an additional bonus payment for job applicants who were formerly long-term unemployed, are transitioning back to the workforce and have obtained new jobs. Up to 10,000 workers can receive the bonus payments, which will run until the program ends at the end of 2021. To be eligible, an applicant must have filed an unemployment weekly claim the week of May 23, 2021; filed claims in additional weeks between December 27, 2020 and May 22, 2021; obtain and maintain a full-time job for at least eight weeks between May 30 and December 31; and not file unemployment during that period of at least eight weeks. The Back to Work CT application and more information is available at ct.gov/drs. The program is especially valuable as federal unemployment benefits are slated to end September 3.