On Thursday, Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy shared with the board that the district will prioritize students' emotional well-being ahead of its fall reopening.
The move is in line with the state’s plan to conduct full-time in-person learning for the school year 2021-22.
During the regular board meeting on May 13, Murphy shared that, aside from academic goals, the district intends to ensure that students are emotionally and socially prepared to transition from virtual to in-person classes.
In preparation, Murphy laid out various surveys and guidelines to monitor students’ performance and needs. These include allowing teachers to reconsider which monitoring programs and diagnostic assessments to use as indicated in the state's Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan.
In addition, the district also directs the implementation of the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum.
According to the George Lucas Educational Foundation, the SEL curriculum gears toward developing five essential skills and competencies among students. The skills include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Murphy added that for faculty and staff to deliver a successful SEL curriculum, they would need additional help.
In addition, schools would also need to improve counseling support and increased community behavior therapy partnerships. The district also suggests an increase in compensation and workload for social workers.
The district also encourages schools to promote student engagement strategies such as hosting camping activities, school clubs, and other athletic events.
Aside from promoting the students' social-emotional well-being, the school would also introduce several actions to improve students' growth and learning. One of their initial plans is to conduct a multi-tier system of support (MTSS).
Generally, the MTTS serves as a framework that helps struggling students to improve their academic growth and achievement. Along with this, Murphy added that the schools need to provide instructional materials that are both appropriate and culturally responsive.
Overall, Murphy said that he believes that student engagement is the best remedy for social isolation. The school board superintendent also hopes that through these activities, schools can provide healing from the trauma.
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