Trumbull counseling center now open to help kids with schoolwork

The Mary J. Sherlach Counseling Center, named after the Sandy Hook Elementary School psychologist and Trumbull resident who died protecting children, is now offering educational support in the form of free tutoring.

The Mary J. Sherlach Counseling Center, named after the Sandy Hook Elementary School psychologist and Trumbull resident who died protecting children, is now offering educational support in the form of free tutoring.

Contributed / Town of Trumbull

TRUMBULL — The isolation and forced confinement of the past year has driven up demand for the services provided by the Mary J. Sherlach Counseling Center, while also identifying a new area of critical need — educational support.

“What’s happened in the schools is unprecedented,” said Robin Bieber, one of the center’s counselors. “No one has had time to prepare for these changes.”

One issue that has come up frequently in conversations with families and through the center’s collaborative efforts with the schools is that some students are really struggling with remote learning, Bieber said.

“It’s something parents and educators have noticed,” she said.

To help ease the problem the center, which doubles as the town’s Youth Services Bureau, is offering tutoring for Trumbull students. The service is free, with the costs covered by a grant from the state Department of Children and Families.

“It’s a grant that we receive each year, with the stipulation that we spend it on youth services,” Bieber said. “So, even though we didn’t budget for tutoring, since our in-person support and after-school programs had to be canceled due to COVID, we were able to fund this tutoring program.”

Laura Shiel, another staff member at the center, said the program had lined up a number of area tutors to provide the actual instruction.

“At this time, the tutors we have available are focused on grades 6 to 12 in multiple subject areas,” Shiel said. “They can also help students who have a need for general assistance, like organization or prioritization. If there is an elementary-level student with a need, we will certainly do our best to find a tutor for them.”

Bieber said the demands of remote learning have stressed students and their parents, and as a result many students have seen their grades drop.

According to a Pew Research Center study released in October, 68 percent of parents whose kids are learning online reported being concerned about their children falling behind, she said.

“Many students learning from home miss having a structured schedule with teachers to support them,” Bieber said. “A lot of students dislike the lecture format of remote classes, because the lack of interaction makes it harder for them to engage with the material and retain information.”

Home also has loads of distractions that a classroom doesn’t, she said.

“Not all students have the discipline to do a full day of schoolwork at home,” she said. “For some, it’s a matter of ‘I can do schoolwork or I can pick up a video game. Which one am I going to do?’”

Some students also may have a hard time asking for help with subject matter that they are struggling with, Bieber said. In the classroom, this can be nipped in the bud, she said.

“In class, the teacher is right there,” she said. “But when you’re working remotely, you might have to email your question to the teacher, and then when the teacher responds, by then the student has moved on to something else.”

Even when students know they are struggling, getting help can be a challenge, Shiel said.

“Students who might ordinarily take advantage of after-school extra help are unable to do so because of restrictions on activity in school buildings,” she said.

Teachers and students also have struggled to get to know each other, when in many cases they have never met in person.

Parents or students interested in receiving tutoring can call Shiel at 203-452-5193. She will match the student with a tutor and set up a weekly session. The center also is still looking for tutors to add to its database. Tutors should also call Shiel to be added to the program.