Building student and staff resilience when schools reopen:
Considerations and recommendations provided by the North Carolina Resilience & Learning Project
The school year is over, but districts and schools are busy thinking about re-entry planning in the fall. With the ongoing circumstances of COVID-19 and the abrupt early ending to the 19-20 school year, schools are likely to need many added supports and resources in 20-21. To support your planning, the NC Resilience & Learning Project team has put together a set of trauma-informed recommendations to consider for school reopenings. You can download the full planning guide below.
This guide provides an overview of five critical areas to consider for trauma-informed strategies when planning for re-entry. Within each of these areas, the guide provides questions for schools and districts to consider around what they are already doing and what changes need to be made to better align with reopening standards or new initiatives that are needed. Additionally, the guide provides initial ideas when it comes to making changes and proper planning that best support staff, families, and students, focusing both on the physical AND emotional safety of everyone. While there is still much uncertainty around school this year, what we do know is that creating safer and more supportive learning environments for ALL kids is more important now than ever before.
Focus areas for trauma-informed re-entry planning:
- Staff wellness: Going into this new and unpredictable year, focusing on the well-being of our staff will be even more important. Within this area of staff wellness, it is important to focus both on making sure staff are individually taking care of themselves AND ensuring that your staff as a whole feel supported by the system and one another, with a strong sense of safety and connection.
- Relationships: We encourage schools to consider putting more time and strategies in place at the start of this upcoming school year (whether in person or virtually) that focus on building strong staff-student relationships. Before students can access the thinking parts of their brain to be successful at learning, they must feel physically and emotionally safe with their teachers. After such an extended time away from the school building and routines, these connections will need extra effort.
- Structure, routine, and expectations: No matter what school looks like in the coming year, taking steps to create structure and predictability after such an extended time of school closures and remote learning will be even more important than usual.
- Self-regulation skills and social-emotional learning: We highly recommend that schools do their best to keep SEL at the forefront of their re-entry planning. While it will be tempting to first focus on academics and all of the missed instruction time, if SEL does not come first, it will be much harder in the long run to get to the academic curriculum.
- Mental health support and crisis planning: While every district has different systems and partners in place, our final area of recommendation is to ensure your mental health and crisis plans are revised and amplified to anticipate the increased need when school reopens.