Sandoval has worked for Westminster Public Schools for 15 years. Her new title is Director of Social Emotional Learning and Student Agency.
“So it was quite a year for it to be a new position,” she said. “The need for that right now is definitely elevated with all of the stress that has been created through the pandemic and all of the change.”
It’s a unique role for any school district and it couldn’t have come at a better time. So what exactly does her job entail?
“Social emotional learning, at its core, really is our ability to transform how we interact with ourselves, with other people and with the world around us, and right now, the world around us is changing and so we need to change with it,” said Sandoval.
The school has been training staff all summer in waves. The first step? Making sure families know what to expect coming back.
On Thursday, the district released a video that everyone can understand — especially the kids.
“Part of emotional safety is creating a predictable environment,” she said.
The video details everything from temperature checks at the start of the day, to playing in small groups at recess and with toys that don’t need to be passed around.
“So things will definitely look different for the kids when they come back. There are definitely going to be restrictions just like there are for the adults.”
The good news is, the staff will have the tools to make sure the kids feel safe, physically and emotionally.
“I think right now, there’s a really heavy focus on physical safety, we wanna do everything we can to minimize the risk of infection,” she continued, “Along with that, and what’s equally as important, is emotional safety and so we also want to consider, how do we set up an environment that is predictable for our students.”
There’s an actual “Social Emotional Learning” plan the district has put together based on the Person Brain Model.
“We emphasize relationships and relation connections, because what we know about the brain is that the brain actually thrives and survives at its best when connected with other people. So we wanna make sure that we’re implementing all those supports for our students and also for our staff and for our families.”
Part of the Person Brain Model involves making sure staff are trauma informed and know how to respond.
All summer, counselors, principals and trauma staff have been working together and training.
Once school starts, each building will have at least one representative that will continue to work with staff on trauma training.
While no one can predict how kids will respond, staff have are preparing for whatever might come their way.
“We really want to just provide supports to meet emotional needs of people as they go through the changes back and fourth, from remote learning to in person learning and also to just deal with the stressors of COVID.”
The first day of school for Westminster is Thursday Aug. 20.
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