BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Students will be heading back to school in a little more than a month, and for some, it can be very stressful.
It is complicated for some Buffalo students affected by the mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue and anxiety over the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, complicated by the pandemic.
The Center for Disease Control says one in five kids have some level of anxiety.
But a charter school in Buffalo is stepping up its mental health help for students.
“Speak up! Shout your things!”, a teacher read.
Enterprise Charter School students will soon be heading to kindergarten, but right now some already attending a special summer school program.
School leaders say they want students and families to know this is a safe and caring environment for all.
“We’re taking care of the whole child — the social — the emotional everything so that when they're here they know they are safe. It’s a place we want to help them grow and learn and be successful,” explained LeeAnn Fronchowiak, assistant principal, Enterprise Charter.
Assistant Principal Fronckowiak tells me they've hired an unprecedented four school counselors.
The school also provides support to teachers coping with their own anxieties.
Megan Shey is one of the counselors who said it's so important to reassure children they are ready to help support them.
“We’ll be focusing on trauma-informed care. We really want to be able to meet the students where they are at and understand that everyone is in a different place, but also at the same time — kind of in a similar situation, but everyone's feelings are different and they're all valid,” described Shey.
Many of the Enterprise Charter School students live in the Jefferson Avenue community where the mass shooting happened at the Tops Market in May. The store is less than five miles from the school.
“And it's their grocery store, so of course, it impacted them in ways that we didn't know then and we won't know from years, but the hope is that they come to school and feel safe,” noted Denise Terrell, senior director of operations. “The kids are 100 percent the priority here."
Terrell he says the school will always have someone available for students to speak with about their anxiety and concerns.
“There's always an adult that they can talk to about anything whether its anxiety, depression — any of those things it's always been here,” Terrell remarked.
“But some things the kids were saying — they just don't feel safe going out just to the grocery store and it's just heartbreaking to know that we live in a world they don't feel safe doing everyday activities,” Shey said.
Assistant Principal Fronckowiak says it’s really important the children know how much they care about them.
“It’s really important that we take care of the children and show how much we care about them and their families as well because it's not only the children, but the families are having a lot of anxiety as well,” reflected Fronckowiak.
The school features a room where students go through an obstacle course to have some fun and shake out their anxiety.
“That's our social-emotional learning room, which is definitely something we've incorporated into this school and we use it to help the kids kind of work their emotions — sometimes we always can't find the words that we need and we just need to work it out,” Shey described.
.@ECSBuffalo students having some fun in social-emotional room for summer school. The school has four school counselors ready for the upcoming school year to ease students anxieties. @WKBW pic.twitter.com/TDoDWEFsPl— Eileen Buckley (@eileenwkbw) July 26, 2022
Calming stations, restorative circles, and keeping students in a routine are all part of helping calm their fears.
“They're going to come to school and there are people who literally care about them — not only academically, but social-emotionally as well,” replied Terrell.