CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — Kanawha County Schools, a district in West Virginia, rolled out a new tool this week for high school counselors to help students who would normally walk into their office and talk to counselors directly.
The new way of interacting with students has Tiffany Anderson listening and giving guidance even when students are home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"One student had gotten her award letter from WVU and they had no idea how to read it, so we sat for 30 minutes and she held the paper up for me, and I walked them through step by step," Anderson said.
This video conferencing program can help if a student has a question about college preparation, mental health home life and other problems.
Before this, Anderson said she mostly used email, but now, counseling can be done through students' iPads.
"It's no comparison," Anderson said. "Several of the students I have reached out to like this already are kids that I try to touch base with on a regular basis at school."
The secure program is normally used by health professionals and keeps information confidential and simple to use. Kanawha County Schools say they will roll out the program for middle school students next week.
"This is designed to be telehealth, so it meets all the HIPPA guidelines, so that it is confidential," Anderson said.
All students need to do is click an email sent to their inbox and log on. Then, they fill out a consent form and press the video or phone button on the screen.
Anderson said she touches base with students on topics like class schedules and college preparation, but also about mental health and other issues.
"Normally, they would walk in and close our door and say, 'I need to talk to you,' or you could just tell they are upset and you start talking, find out what it is," Anderson said.
She said the downside to this program is an obvious one — students are not able to get the in-person interaction which may be vital to students who need a safe space to talk away from home.
The program is in the free trial period right now, but after 30 days, Kanawha County Schools will decide whether to add it to ever counselors toolbox.
"This is something that unfortunately it had came about in a time that none of us could have ever expected and found a need that we never knew we needed," Anderson said.
In the meantime, Anderson will continue giving guidance to students who need it — with a little help from modern technology.