W.Va. Department of Education prioritizes social-emotional wellness in recovery, summer programs |
CHARLESTON – Summer Programs to Combat Learning Losses are in the final stages of prep and registration as the county’s school systems begin to address the educational impact of the pandemic.
As a result of the pandemic, student learning loss and socio-emotional wellbeing have been compromised, requiring additional learning opportunities and support programs.
West Virginia School Superintendent W. Clayton Burch said he needs to develop a plan for these priorities to provide full pandemic relief funding in the fall and years to come, to provide robust summer programs and additional assistance.
“Our priorities were clear early on,” he said. “Even when the pandemic started it was about the physical and socio-emotional well-being of these children and then we focused on getting them involved and making sure their education continued.
“Just like nutritional standards, when children are hungry, they cannot focus on school. When you have food insecurities, it affects your academics. The same goes for social-emotional wellbeing. When you are struggling with mental or emotional issues, these academics cannot be your focus. We can try to promote whatever we want academics, but you have to meet those basic needs first. “
For the past 6 to 7 months, Burch said he spoke with the superintendent’s Education Advisory Team, a group of people across the spectrum of education in the administration, classroom, service staff, central office, community and home.
Speaking to the advisory team, Office of Technology WVDE Director Georgia Hughes-Webb said members had an opportunity to conduct surveys expressing concerns about the education system while the state prepared for the recovery .
“We found that the top seven concerns our team members have are also some of the top concerns we have,” she said. “The main concern is well-being and health, socio-emotional, mental and physical – especially of students, but also of employees.”
Further concerns were the recruitment, retention and development of teachers. family and community engagement and support; Loss of learning and opportunities and gaps; Funding and resources; Legislation and regulation; Pandemic recovery, re-entry and engagement.
“The pandemic was a root problem related to all of these problems – the root problem and the bigger problem,” said Hughes-Webb. “We really wanted to sit down and discuss what kind of support we can offer in the future.”
Christy Schwartz has weekly meetings with the district’s school systems to discuss their summer programs. She notes that many districts implement not only academic but also socio-emotional support.
Schwartz is the WVDE coordinator for the summer program “Student Opportunities for Learning and Engagement” (SOLE).
It was designed to include components that would support the entire student, she said.
“I find that during this time many counties hired counselors or hired their social workers to support students,” Schwartz said.
Burch said that in addition to summer programs, school systems can expect solid professional development and expanded learning related to mental health, first aid, trauma-informed care, and more.
“We need to realize that this is not a one-summer-one-year fix,” he said.
As the state gets into pandemic recovery mode, Burch states that the state school system places great emphasis on how students can be welcomed and returned to buildings.
Additionally, Burch said it was important to note that 50,000 children have not had face-to-face education since last March – with a vast majority of those children either skipping preschool or staying at home during kindergarten.
“I worry that thousands and thousands of children will get into first grade without ever having been to a school building,” he said. “We will not only deal with academic gaps, but also with socio-emotional trauma and challenges of never being in school before.”
Burch said the West Virginia Department of Education has received $ 1.2 billion in pandemic aid for K-12 education, and the agency plans to use those dollars as wisely and efficiently as possible to help each child help.
“We have three years to use our pandemic funding to support our children,” he said. “We want to make sure that in three years we can look back and share how we really influenced the students.”