Olentangy Local School District leaders are hoping to give parents the tools they need to help students deal with stress and anxiety.
The district's Equity & Inclusion Parent Workshop Series will present "Keep Calm and Carry On: Supporting Our Students with Stress and Anxiety" from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at Olentangy Berlin High School, 3140 Berlin Station Road.
The workshop is meant to educate parents about the anxiety and stress their students may be feeling. It's part of a districtwide emphasis on taking care of students with varying degrees of anxiety.
Jackie Powers Merkle, the district's supervisor of equity and inclusion, said the district is trying to improve its handling of "mental health and social-emotional learning," and has beefed up its student well-being department as part of that approach.
"For us, this is just part of a bigger push," she said. "It's looking at what are the social-emotional issues our students are grappling with and how we can provide support for our teachers who are working with them."
She said workshops such as this one aim to give parents information they may not have, especially in a time when anxiety seems more prevalent than ever.
"There has been an increase, generally, in anxiety and stress that students experience naturally as we've seen an increase in screen time," Merkle said. "It seems like there may be a link there, so I know a lot of parents are looking at limiting that screen time or the way that's related to the stress or anxiety their kids are feeling."
Merkle said the district just finished a survey curated by Panorama Education that collected data from 90 percent of district students in grades 3-12. When the data are analyzed and put together, the result is meant to show how many district students are susceptible to anxiety and stress and help the district respond.
One example of a response, called trauma-informed care, already has been implemented through teacher education.
"It's this strategy that we have to assume when we interact with students -- or adults -- they may or may not have experienced some type of trauma and they may have a trigger that we don't know about until it presents itself," Merkle said. "So from there, it's looking at different things teachers can do in the classroom when a behavior concern presents itself and getting to the root of what's causing that."
Part of the reservation form for the workshop, Merkle said, was a section asking parents what their questions were. Those questions will be used not only to shape the workshop itself, but to help plan future events, educate guidance counselors on common themes and even inform the survey results.
"From there, we can kind of look at main themes parents want to see addressed as well as addressing some of those specific questions down the road that would meet parent needs," she said.
Reservations are not required to attend the Nov. 29 workshop.