Social Emotional Well-being

Choose Love logoThe Choose Love Program has dedicated the month of November to gratitude.

They have created a 30 day Gratitude Toolkit and a November Gratitude Calendar.

These positive activities are important as so many families continue to struggle with the impacts of COVID-19.

We recognize that the social emotional well-being of our students and staff during these challenging times is critically important. The district has established numerous social-emotional supports to address the mental health, behavioral, and emotional needs of students, faculty, and families when school reopens for remote, synchronous and in-person instructions. The supports will be provided through a tiered approach:

  •  Tier I universal social emotional supports district-wide through
    • Choose Love Social-Emotional Curriculum in grades K through 8
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy lessons in the grades 7 through 12 health curriculum
  • Tier II Small group counseling sessions, behavioral supports
  • Tier III Group and individual counseling sessions, behavior improvement plan, safety plan, county mental health supports, referral to Intensive Day  

The district has established a Re-Opening Schools Social-Emotional Learning Task Force that involves shared decision-making and consists of 34 members including teachers, administrators, Board of Education Members, community members, parents, school psychologists, social workers, school counselors, and department chairs. Our initial recommendations are formulated by a child-centered, intelligent, and deeply committed group of people who are like minded in their desire to provide high caliber and effective social-emotional support to our students, staff, and families. Through many engaging and high energy conversations we brainstormed infinite possibilities to make this goal a reality. Based on the multitude of areas that SEL encompasses, we used the NYSED Task Force Guidance and broke into several subcommittees. This afforded us opportunities to drill down deeper into each SEL area. Our subcommittees consisted of:

  1. Addressing Student, staff and Family SEL Needs
  2. School Climate and Culture 
    1. Trauma Informed Classrooms
    2. Addressing Racism & Anti-semitism
  1.   Discipline/Restorative Practices
  2.   Impact on Special Populations (Homeless, undomcumented families)

The resounding and overarching theme for all SEL members and for the subcommittees is that SEL has to be the number one priority, before any other learning can occur. We often found ourselves saying; students have to Maslow before they can Bloom. Meaning that in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we have to address our students’ physiological needs (shelter, food, safety needs and sense of belonging) before students can remember, understand and apply academic content. 

Our recommendations transcend all instructional models and are essential.  They can be implemented regardless of the setting. 

Below are Four SEL Critical Practices from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic and SEL) that we followed as we created our recommendations:

  1. Take time to cultivate and deepen relationships, build partnerships, and plan for SEL.
  2. Design opportunities where adults can connect, heal, and build their capacity to support students.
  3. Create safe, supportive, and equitable learning environments that promote all students’ social and emotional development.
  4. Use data as an opportunity to share power, deepen relationships, and continuously improve support for students, families, and staff.  

The Task Force and the district as a whole recognize that students and staff will be returning to school after experiencing some degree of trauma, loss and hardship. We would be remiss as a district if we did not provide professional development in order for the students and staff to learn how to practice self-care, how to support and care for one another, develop strong student-teacher relationships, address trauma, conduct deep conversations about racial equity, cultural responsiveness and training to help teachers build resiliency within themselves and their students. All content will be engaging, practical, and science-based, and through the lens of the current COVID-19 and racial justice landscape.

The professional development plan would be implemented over the course of a full school year and most likely would continue into the 2021 -2022 school year. Webinars and keynote speakers will begin presenting to the staff during August 2020 and will start with the focus upon self-care for all staff (administrators,teachers, teaching assistants, clerical, monitors, bus drivers, security, custodial staff and food service workers). During the first weeks of September, the staff will be provided staff development opportunities that address how to identify trauma, trauma stress reactions and how to promote resilience and self-regulation. 

Each school building will formulate their own implementation team that will determine where they believe they need support in order to build trauma-informed and culturally responsive classrooms. 

The district has created a school schedule that will afford ongoing PD training for the staff on a consistent basis. 

We recognize that this pandemic has created many challenging circumstances for our students and families. In addition to the support outlined above, we have assembled an array of health and wellness resources and referral sources for our families.

Social Story-speaking about Covoid-19 to students with Autism

An anonymous text counseling resource, which is available 24/7 to Orange County teens. Text 845-391-1000 to connect with a trained counselor.

  • Mobile Mental Health: Crisis Call Center – 1-800-832-1200