S.D. Unified offers resources for physical and social-emotional wellness as schools move toward reopening
As the San Diego Unified School District prepares to welcome students back to campus for reopening on April 12 after more than a year of the pandemic, it provides families and employees with a variety of resources to support their physical, emotional, and social health .
Kate McDevitt, SDUSD Director of Wellness for Nursing and Wellness, introduced many of the resources at the March 18 Zoom meeting of the La Jolla Cluster Association, which represents the five schools in the La Jolla district.
The resources she shared were divided into three areas – families, students, and staff – and represented “the tip of the iceberg” of what the district has to offer, she said.
For all three areas, McDevitt referred to the California Schools Voluntary Employee Benefits Association Resource Center (vebaresourcecenter.com), which is provided free of charge.
Most VEBA benefits apply to SDUSD employees. “However, they have set up a virtual resource center that has virtual classes every day,” she said. The topics of the almost 300 courses offered per month range from fitness, yoga and dance to cooking and mindfulness and are aimed at all families.
According to McDevitt, SDUSD has partnered with Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which provides “tremendous resources for parents and carers,” such as advice on finding personal space while studying from home and sleep support resources that they call “keys for learning ”.
For traditional wellness resources, visit the Live Well San Diego website (livewellsd.org), where McDevitt has “many good choices for healthy eating and active living,” according to a 30-day challenge.
For parents, McDevitt says the California Parent & Youth Helpline is available at (855) 427-2736 for those who “need someone to talk to to help process the things you are struggling with.”
There are students who are also struggling with mental health, she said. “This is a valid and real thing.” To address this, the SDUSD Mental Health Resource Center has put together a document of resources to “Help Parents Understand How To Support Their Students’ Health and Wellness Needs”. The document is located at bit.ly/sdusdmentalhealthdoc.
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In addition, students formed the Student Wellness and Education Resources Committee to advocate and help their peers, McDevitt said.
The district has also partnered with PureEdge, a company that, according to McDevitt, “does a lot of work at the intersection of mindfulness and movement. We find that by aligning these two factors we can reduce stress and anxiety for our students. “
PureEdge has created programs for fracturing the brain in the classroom and integrating physical education into the classroom, and hosts webinars for families on its website pureedgeinc.org. “We’ll be working with them over the coming months to make sure there are resources and support at all levels,” said McDevitt.
She said the district also runs programs from the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theater, which “does a lot of work on resilience and trauma-related practices in a very student-friendly, youth-focused way.”
According to McDevitt, district staff wellness webinars offer “techniques and strategies for staff returning to campus,” along with the staff assistance program, which includes mental health support and assistance with “childcare and geriatric care, as well as financial and legal advice. “SDUSD’s EAP has more than 100 programs available, she said.
A school wellness coordinator is identified at each SDUSD location – “an employee who plays a different role [who has] was hired by the school principal to take on the role of coordinating a school wellness committee, ”said McDevitt. It can be a nurse, a physical education teacher, a counselor, or a school principal.
The wellness coordinator helps the district “assess what wellness is like in their location and then plan improvements over time,” said McDevitt.
Typically, the district’s wellness program encompasses nine key areas: nutrition, physical education, physical activity, health education, health services, safe school environment, socio-emotional well-being, employee well-being, and family and community.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition of schools to an online format in March 2020, the district has reduced its wellness focus to five areas for the current school year, McDevitt said, “Mental health and wellbeing, COVID-19 prevention , physical education and activity, social health drivers – which can include food security and housing – and the wellbeing of our employees. “
“We are making sure that equity, diversity and inclusion are system-wide part of this process,” she said.
The resources that McDevitt explained are “just a starting point,” she said, noting that additional resources will become available as the reopening progresses.
“There is much more to come,” she said. “It is important to lay a foundation for wellness in our district.” ◆