Loveland City School District Nurse Judy Leamy and Director of Student Services Eric Dool talk about taking care of student’s emotional health during COVID-19 distance learning

By:  Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (April 17, 2020) – There was a plan in place for Loveland Schools to provide continuation of services for students social-emotional learning (SEL) and mental-health during a crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic. It was never used. . .

Eric Dool, Director of Student Services, LCSD (Provided) 

Until the shutdown order came from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in mid-March. They never had any reason to implement the plan for remote academic services or remote SEL and mental-health services for Loveland City School District (LCSD) students. In a remote video meeting with Loveland Beacon, LCSD District Nurse Judy Leamy and Director of Student Services Eric Dool shared information about the plan, and its implementation to provide “social-emotional learning” and mental-health services for students during the school closure.

The plan is for all students, but addresses two smaller subset groups of students. There are kids who typically receive small group or one-on-one types of services with school counselors, school psychologists, or intervention specialists to provide help they might need with social-emotional behaviors.

Then, according to Dool, there is a much smaller group of students who might need individualized support for things like therapy, case management, medication management and even family support.

 “When we look at our responsibility under remote learning, we really try to ensure we have things in place for all of that,” said Dool. “To be sure we’re continuing with those general efforts for all kids, and that we continue with those really critical small group and individualized supports we know are necessary for those students with the most need. That includes making sure we have those systems in place for addressing behaviors or mental health needs we don’t always see.”


Specifically, as Loveland transitioned to remote learning, Loveland School staffs have worked hard to continue support for social-emotional learning and mental-health services. Multiple remote meetings have been held to ensure services continue in line with Ohio SEL Standards. School staffs continue to offer mental-health support through school psychologists and school counselors.

Judy Leamy, District Nurse , LCSD (Provided)

The LCSD mental-health partner, Best Point Behavioral Health/The Children’s Home of Cincinnati continues to provide those services. Leamy has been most impressed by the collaborative effort by staff to care for the kids.

“I’m most proud of the continuation of services,” said Leamy. “Not that we never planned for it, but talking about it and implementing it; that’s two different things. The commitment level I’ve seen from the staff, whether for academic education or the social-emotional has been incredible. It’s not divided. It’s everybody thinking of things to stay connected.”

Here is a summary breakdown of LCSD SEL/Mental-Health efforts during COVID-19 remote learning response provided by Director of Student Services Eric Dool:


  • Weekly communications from school counselors through Smore / Tiger Talk
    • SEL, mental health, routines, new norms, resiliency, calming fears, etc.
    • Week 1 from LECC / LPS / LES focussing on the importance of routine for young learners
  • Continued use of curriculum, including resources parents can use
    • Social Thinking
    • Second Step
    • Above The Line
    • Common Sense Media
  • Continued processes for accessing mental-health services


  • Daily video announcements to encourage student feelings of safety, being connected, and having a routine
    • Pushed out through teacher remote-learning plans
    • Regular appearance from school counselors which will include a wellness / social-emotional tip
  • Weekly lessons on social-emotional topics
    • Building on efforts using Social Thinking and Second Step
  • Ongoing communication with parents of students who work with school counselors / psychologists individually and in groups
  • Continuing to provide mentors with suggestions to help support their mentees during this time
  • Ongoing communication with NEST and Best Point Behavioral Health / The Children’s Home to support families working with those organizations


  • Starfish / Mentoring Program
    • Work support
    • Goal setting
    • Social-emotional needs
    • Extra support via educational aides
    • LMS
  • Continued communications re: Above The Line (E+R=O)
    • Daily principal announcements
    • All school communications
    • References in lesson plans through teachers
  • Weekly mindfulness via school counselor through principal communications
  • Continued mental-health supports
    • Reiterating contacts to reach out
    • Scheduled check-ins with those students known to traditionally struggle
  • Hope Squad
    • Virtual spirit week
      • Decorating windows / sidewalks
      • Social media
    • Student Athletic Leadership Team (SALT)
      • Owning your response and helping others
        • Building on Above The Line work


  • Hope Squad
    • Twitter outreach
  • Google support with therapy
  • Athletics – Captains’ Club

Targeted Special-Education Efforts

  • LPS / LES
    • Weekly lessons
      • Empathy, worries, self-control, mindfulness, anger management, goal setting
      • Monday read alouds on that week’s topic
      • Check-in via Google Hangout
      • Consultation with parents
      • Continued communication with educational aides to allow students to continue to build trust
    • LIS / LMS
      • Breakfast club
        • Nutrition and socialization
        • Friendship
        • Developing relationships
        • Coping skills
      • Google Classroom
        • Relationship building prompts for group work
      • LHS
        • Home visits to remain connected – even if from a distance


Staying connected with the students and their families is challenging during the emergency closure. Distance learning through the remote video classroom challenges students, teachers, staff and parents alike.

 “We had to change our mindset,” Leamy noted, “Changing from brick and mortar to virtual is a huge shift. When you are doing something remotely, it is more difficult to see and understand social cues; to engage and connect.”


It is only natural to see and pick-up on body language in person. In that case, seeing detects more than just a physical presence.

 “Eighty-percent of communication is non-verbal,” Dool interjected. “It is such a huge aspect, facial expression gives away some things, but there is a whole world of communication we miss.”

Even in the normal physical classroom setting, students don’t always give away their full social-emotional and mental-health situation to teachers. In Loveland Schools, that’s where both Leamy and Dool point to the success of the “Hope Squad” program which started in Utah, but was adopted here in Ohio. Two things you need to know about the program immediately: 1) it enlists student peers chosen by the kids themselves who are trusted, trained, know what to look for, but are not taught to intervene, but rather taught to see and say. 2) That program is in effect with peers still connecting via social media even while staying at home.

 “It has created great relationships because of trusted peers,” said Leamy. “Hope Squad has been a game-changer. I think it is a great asset.”

Hope Squad has a “Champion” in each LCSD Building grade 5-12 (Chuck Gibson File photo)

Just by listening, students have caught concerns and reported them. According to statistics reported from a survey by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) nearly 8% of youth grades 9-12 reported at least one attempt at suicide in a 12-month period. The attempt rate by female students was nearly twice the attempt rate reported by male students (9.3% to 5.1%) About 2.4 percent of ALL students reported making a suicide attempt requiring medical treatment by a doctor or nurse.

 Dool, who has served as school psychologist in CPS schools before coming to Loveland Schools, says about “20-percent of students in a school year suffer a major mental health issue” and knows of multiple cases where “Hope Squad” peers have made a difference.

He cited a case where a Hope Squad peer picked up on something parents and teachers missed. The student was actively planning to harm himself. That saved a life.  Even now Hope Squad is using social media to keep the student body aware they are there ready to help.

 “As a health provider, it is a concern that we don’t see those signs of anxiety,” said Dool. “A student may not reach out while sitting at home versus being in school. We have to be extra-diligent just paying attention to our kids in a way that’s not usual. Because of the added stress, added anxiety, and the ways people might act out at home, that poses another layer of mental-health need. “


We’ve heard it a lot in these last few weeks. These are indeed unprecedented times. Teachers, school administrators, school bus drivers would not normally pop in to “Google Hangout” with students. Now, it is the best thing they can do. Leamy pointed out they can’t even call on police to make a “wellness check” due to restrictions on police response calls.

The Loveland Schools resource officers are being diligent in their efforts to help in numerous ways. For Leamy, Dool, the administrators, all the LCSD staff, it comes down to relationships, connecting, engaging, caring for each other. That is “the definition of mental-health” according to Leamy. People don’t feel alone when they are checking in on each other.

 “There is an opportunity here for a shift in our culture,” Dool observed. “There can be some positives that will come from this.”

Caring for students today during COVID-19 response at Loveland Sshools (File photo-Chuck Gibson) 

We are already seeing those positives. Both Dool and Leamy cited examples of families now home together, cooking together, taking walks together. Together. People are finding ways to help others. People are donating and creating the things necessary to protect those in need – those on the frontline of defense against COVID-19. Then, of course, there is always the real ray of sunshine.

 “It helps too; the weather is getting better,” Leamy said. “You can get outside feel that sunshine. It really does make a difference. It is going to take all of us working together.”

Click here for LCSD resources for Mental-Health services during the closure.

Click here for the latest Q & A for distance learning on the Loveland Schools website.