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Supporting the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of the School Community During COVID-19

As a result of the unprecedented situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to face a new reality and acknowledge the many ways that this crisis may increase vulnerability and risk factors for members of our school community. Given the adversity that individuals within the Zeta community have experienced and will continue to experience, including crisis situations, during this time, we know it is essential to proactively identify support systems with the potential to provide relief to those in need. 

Our team has compiled a set of resources available to families during this challenging time.

RETURN TO COVID-19 RESPONSE & RESOURCES

What we have implemented to support our students & families.

At Zeta, our highest commitment is to the safety and wellbeing of our school communities.  We serve a diverse population, many of whom have been hard hit by the public health and economic fallout from this crisis.  We are deeply committed to supporting our families during this difficult time, and we are continuously working to better understand our families’ challenges and explore additional supports that we can provide.

Tele-therapies for Students with Special Needs

During the first week of our school building closures, our school psychologists conducted outreach to families to obtain their consent and begin providing tele-therapy to each of their mandated counseling students.  Starting the second week, students with IEPs began receiving tele-therapies for speech and occupational therapy as well, after the DOE officially approved tele-therapy as a recognized practice and created a paperless procedure for obtaining consent from parents/guardians.  We created individualized and comprehensive contact lists for each provider and facilitated a shared provider calendar to ease the challenge of scheduling therapists, addressing particularly the scheduling challenges for students needing multiple services.

Online Community Circles & Frequent Social-Emotional Check-Ins

Our teachers conduct a social-emotional & wellness check-in at least once per week with each Zeta student.  Additionally, we conduct a weekly check-in with our families to become aware of any situations requiring a higher level of support.  Teachers hold meetings at various times throughout the day and week to provide flexibility to families.

We have also moved our weekly practice of Circle online.  Circle is an opportunity for students to build self-awareness and authentic relationships through mindfulness breathing and meditation, sharing personal experiences, resonating with one another, and showing gratitude toward each other. Once per week, homeroom teachers host an optional Circle on Zoom to provide an opportunity for students to share with vulnerability and openness their highs, lows, and feelings. In addition to the full Circle, teachers also hold two morning and two afternoon classroom meetings each week where they incorporate mindfulness breathing practices, feelings check-ins, and appreciations. It is especially important to us that we continue this work during this uncertain time to give children an outlet to express their feelings freely and to be supported and loved by their school community.

What we have implemented to support Team Zeta.

Our overnight transition to remote learning has been a big transition for our staff, who are used to engaging in person daily with the Zeta community and are impacted personally by this crisis.  During this challenging time, we are only as strong as our team, and we are focused on supporting our team members so that they can maintain a sense of wellbeing and centeredness, and can also continue to serve our students and families.  As we work remotely, we are setting up touch points and structures to build community, team, and a sense of unity throughout the organization.

Online Community Circles & Frequent Check-Ins

Our staff typically engages in social-emotional work that complements our students’ social-emotional curriculum, including community circles that facilitate personal connections and provide an opportunity for staff to share their challenges and support one another.  We moved these circles online, ensuring that our team has an opportunity to share their challenges, and facilitating much-needed support amongst our team. Zeta’s leadership also holds frequent team meetings, and managers engage in one-on-one and group check-ins with their teams to ensure that they are feeling supported with their work and with the sudden adjustment to working remotely and to the growing COVID-19 threat.

Mindfulness Meditation Resources

Zeta provided staff members with an audiobook, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and its accompanying Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1. Based on Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s renowned mindfulness-based stress-reduction program, the audiobook demonstrates how to use natural, medically proven methods to soothe and heal the body, mind, and spirit.