It’s been more than two years since the start of the pandemic and the vast number of New Jersey schools resumed in-person learning last September, but the effects of COVID continue to reverberate with students statewide.

“As I speak with school superintendents throughout the state they are indeed affirming that there are many more issues post-COVID, coming back to school, than there were pre-COVID,” said Rich Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

Some schools have reported an increase in student fighting, while others have been dealing with an uptick in bullying.

sad moment Elementary Age Bullying in Schoolyard
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Bozza said there is “more acting out by students, the grief, anxiety, depression that children have experienced during the pandemic is really welling over into classrooms and hallways, school support people are indeed working very diligently to support students in many ways.”

Serious emotional issues

He said in some cases that support includes counseling students who have expressed suicidal ideation.

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“We’re now trying to come back to a new normalcy and students are having a difficult time making that adjustment coming back,” he said.

He noted when schools were shut down during the early days of the pandemic there was a significant outreach in many communities to support students and their families, but there was an expectation once kids were back in school that there would be fewer of these kinds of issues. That has not been the case.

An ongoing problem

“We were surprised at the increase in need to respond to kids either crying out either for assistance through behavior or through other means of supporting them in their school or home environment,” Bozza said.

Federal funding for many school districts has resulted in more counseling support to help students experiencing these kinds of problems.

Bozza added this issue may be ongoing for some time, and when federal funding ends for expanded counseling support, the problem could wind up becoming “a little bit of a crisis at that point.”

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