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School Psychology Faculty, Grad Students Develop COVID-19 Resource Manual for Educators

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 21:00pm | By: David Tisdale

A new resource produced by faculty and graduate students in The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School Psychology Program is designed to help educators and parents of K-12 students across the state with questions or concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 virus on their schools and the students they serve.

The COVID-19 Resource Manual includes information, strategies and resources that may offset the negative impact of the pandemic in its provision of guidance for specific groups, including teachers, staff and school administrators; parents; the bilingual community; and teachers who work with students with disabilities, among others.

“We consider this an important aspect of our delivery of services to school personnel, and particularly during a difficult and challenging time that impacts educators and students,” said USM Professor and Director of the School Psychology Program Dr. Joe Olmi.

After educational entities across the state began closing in the spring during the outbreak of the virus, including those K-12 school districts, Dr. Olmi said the team went immediately to work researching available materials for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and combining its findings to make one packet with reputable resources for administrators, teachers, families, and students. It can be reviewed at

Joining Dr. Olmi in the development and compilation of the manual were Dr. Crystal Taylor, assistant professor in the School Psychology Program; School Psychology graduate students Stefanie Schrieber, Meleah Ackley, Lauren Peak, Taylor Ben, Brittany Pigg, and Chelsea Johnson; and Erica Van Overloop in the USM Counseling Psychology Program, who serves as a graduate student clinic coordinator.

“Thousands of resources are already available to help cope with the pandemic, and it can become overwhelming for families and educators to search and select appropriate materials for their needs,” said Schrieber, a School Psychology doctoral student from Pekin, Illinois. “Thus, the goal of the manual was to condense the available resources into one document that was easily accessible to the public. We hope it reaches beyond the state in providing both families and educators with information needed to help cope with the impact of COVID-19.”

Topics addressed in the manual are arranged by categories for teachers, administrators, staff and parents and include, but are not limited to, strategies for transitioning to online learning; Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on limiting the spread of the COVID-19 in school facilities; managing special needs and disabilities; addressing mental health issues; information on civil rights protections for all students; self-care strategies for teachers, parents and students; resources specific to the bilingual community; how to spot reactions to stress based on age categories; tips on safe social and physical activities for children; and resources for crisis response teams, among many others.

Also featured is an organized list of websites and handouts that is easy to navigate and covers a broad spectrum of resources related to COVID-19, from academic websites to mobile-based applications for coping with anxiety.

“This pandemic and the subsequent school closures this spring have been very stressful for students, teachers and parents -- a traumatic experience for all involved,” said Kelly Riley, executive director of Mississippi Professional Educators (MPE), who shared the manual with the organization’s approximately 13,500 members. “While the school buildings have been closed, learning continued, but under much different circumstances via distance learning and packets, and the year did not end with the traditional goodbyes and hugs. “I’m confident that the resource manual has supported our members during this pandemic, and will prove beneficial to their planning for the upcoming school year, so that they may effectively support and teach their students following this traumatic event.”

The USM School of Psychology’s School Psychology Program, housed in the College of Education and Human Sciences, prepares behavioral scientists to address issues encountered by students related to schooling, including those involving behavior and learning challenges. After four years of coursework and a fifth year of internship, graduates of the program go on to serve in various settings that include hospitals, clinics, developmental centers, school districts and at universities and colleges as faculty members.

For more information about the School Psychology Program, visit