WJ held its second town hall

More stories from Emily Speranza

WJ Principal Jennifer Baker talks about future opportunities that could help students manage stress and have a lighter workload.

Every month on a Wednesday, WJ admin and the leadership class hold a town hall in the form of a virtual webinar, with each meeting focusing on a specific topic. On November 18, WJ held its second town hall with the main topic of the meeting discussing the importance of mental health.

Besides WJ admin and representatives from leadership, this town hall had two special guests. Counselor Joe Thompson and president of Sources of Strength, Victoria Rentsch. The meeting was led by senior and SGA president Konchok Chophel and leadership teacher Melanie Schwed.

Since the meeting was in a webinar format, students weren’t able to turn on their video or audio but if they had any questions there was a Q&A feature that could allow anyone in the meeting to share their thoughts.

“These town halls are a platform for students to share their thoughts, opinions, questions, and concerns regarding WJ to the SGA, administration and staff,” Chopel said.

Before the town hall is led into the main topic for the day, each meeting starts with county or WJ updates that are important for the student body to know. The updates given for this meeting discussed the early release days before thanksgiving break, MCPS’s plan for a phase-in return to in-person instruction starting on January 12th, and the distribution of report cards.

“Even though there’s been an uptick in the COVID-19 cases in Maryland and in our surrounding states….MCPS is still planning to do a phase-in return to school, but all of that will be dependent on whether or not the cases come back down,” WJ Principal Jennifer Baker said.

After the student updates, the meeting then shifted over to the topic of mental health. Thompson talked about the struggles with virtual school, the lack of taking care of yourself amidst this pandemic and how important it is for students to manage stress and have a consistent routine that allows them to stay active and mentally healthy so students can be as successful as possible during virtual school.

Thompson also stressed that counselors are still available for students who need to talk or simply just need help to figure things out. Counselors are currently trying to have more open meetings on Wednesdays, but in the meantime students can schedule zoom meetings with their counselor.

Rentsch also shared her input on how students can help themselves manage and reduce the stress during this time.

“Your mental health is the most important thing right now…students kinds of overextend themselves and I think you have to realize, especially in this situation that if you need to take easier classes this year or if your grades are slipping or if you aren’t able to keep up with all the things you did last year, that’s ok. Everyone is under a lot of mental health strain right now and you need to take care of yourself first,” Rentsch said.

The co-hosts and panelists then asked the attendees for their feedback on what’s helping students improve their mental health and what isn’t, how can WJ help students improve their mental health during this time, and students could jump in if they had any feedback or ideas on how the SGA could improve.

“This is a huge conversation right now at the county level about how we need to cut some slack and give ourselves a break and I fully expect some messages to be coming out from the county along those lines about giving people permission to just kind of step back,” Baker said.

During this time students had the opportunity to ask any questions they had, and through the SGA Instagram people asked questions about homework free weekends and other opportunities for ways to reduce workload. People also gave some positive feedback on how they appreciate the Wednesdays off and the support teachers have given during virtual school.

Rentsch also shared on how students could join Sources of Strength which is a diverse community for students who are struggling with their mental health. If interested students can find out how to join on the WJ website under the list of clubs.

The SGA and admin will be holding their next town hall on December 16th, with the main topic discussing equity. There will also be guest speakers attending from the MCPS equity unit and leaders from the Minority Scholars Program. Stay tuned for more information on how to attend.