WILMINGTON — New business at the School Committee meeting last Wednesday night pertained to a proposal for social-emotional learning support and the return to full in-person for this spring.
Coordinator of Behavioral Health and Social-Emotional Support Christine Murray and Director of Student Support Services Alice Brown-LeGrand presented several new ideas for social-emotional learning in Wilmington that would start as early as next year.
Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand first shared that their task for tonight was only to gather support, and in the coming weeks they’d start taking advantage of grant funding to make way for these changes.
Brown-LeGrand mentioned some recent adjustments over the past few years including changing the Office of Special Education to the Office of Student Support, the creation of the behavioral health task force, working with MacLean Hospital’s anxiety mastering programming, joining the Massachusetts General Health Consortium, and creating screening tools for students.
There was also the recent Walker Report which identified the need to make student support equal across town.
Murray talked about the increase of support that started in the fall of 2020 and led to the department adding more positions and creating a family resource guide. They also provided staff with a wellness survey and professional development related to childhood trauma, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention.
Focusing on students and families, the department used schoolwide community meetings to teach coping skills, the YRBS survey which would be going out to students soon, and the Caregiver Virtual Series they’d done earlier this year.
Going forward, they would look to increase access to outpatient mental health and wellness resources, increase support for multi-tiered systems for social-emotional learning programming, and increase clinical staff. A few programs that they would sign up for would be the William James College INTERFACE referral service and Panorama Education to measure SEL skills and confidences.
School Committee member Jay Samaha mentioned that the district where he teaches uses Panorama Education, and wanted to know if this would be funded by a grant. Brand said that it would.
“One of the silver linings of this pandemic is that we’re learning what the needs are,” Samaha added.
M. J. Byrnes asked if parents would be involved in Panorama data, and Alice Brown-LeGrand answered that they would be part of that and the IST process for students. Byrnes also wondered if there was any data about student engagement.
Brown-LeGrand shared that this does concern clinical staff, as they’re supporting families when they reach out about kids not logging on or coming to school.
Brand ended by saying that they’d hope to add the extra clinical staff as soon as possible and start gathering Panorama data before the end of the year. He wanted to make sure community members would also be aware of these resources available to them.
Assistant Superintendent Christine Elliot then presented the results and implications of the return to full in-person survey for families. Overall, there were small numbers of families requesting for their students to switch from hybrid to remote, or remote to fully in-person, at most grade levels.
Brand added that a lot of furniture was being moved to accommodate more students at three feet social distancing. He reminded everyone that even with restrictions changing, the definition of close contact remains six feet, so a possible COVID-19 exposure at school will have more impact.
Some other changes being made would relate to medication drop-offs, transportation increasing, food services requiring more staff, and students eating lunch in alternative rooms. He said prom, graduation, and MCAS are still planned for this spring.
Samaha asked if vaccinations would affect whether someone would be a close contact. Brand said he would follow up with the Board of Health and the Nursing Director but that he understood that a vaccinated person wouldn’t have to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure. David Ragsdale seconded that understanding, except if the vaccinated person showed symptoms of COVID-19.
Ragsdale also reiterated the importance of families staying vigilant with safety precautions and protocols.
“It’s so important that we are still really good about distancing, hygiene, and not coming to school if you’re sick,” he said.
Jenn Bryson mentioned that parents were concerned about whether quarantining students could still participate in school, either synchronously or asynchronously. Brand said that it was DESE’s expectation that access to education be provided for those in quarantine or isolation.
Elliot shared that there weren’t any situations she knew of where students moving from hybrid to fully in-person would be changing teachers. Those switching from remote, except at the high school level, would still get new teachers.
Another added layer to this planning she referenced has been people moving to Wilmington and entering the district. However, she said that the administration is working to make sure all students will fit in the classrooms that they have.