You were probably already concerned about your students with academic and behavior challenges before the COVID-19 school closures. You already know your students who live in homes where their well-being is in jeopardy. I was concerned and I am a retired principal and classroom teacher. I tried Googling to see if I could find any information about what schools around the country were doing-in particular schools in COVID-19 hotspots. Finding none, I decided to call two staff members in the Seattle Public Schools District. Counselor Rachel Carrasco at South Shore PreK-8th and Madrona Elementary Principal Mary McDaniel were eager to share their MTSS Tier I -III approach during this crisis.
We are sharing their wellness safety plans in this month’s blog. We will continue to reach out and find what schools are planning for re-entry when COVID-19 closure ends to share with you. In the meantime, do stay safe, take care of yourself and your family. Do what you can to foster your resiliency!
South Shore PreK-8th – Counselor Carrasco
At the start of the school year, Principal Hendrickson requires all teachers to regularly contact families and share positive news about their child. There is a shared excel spread sheet, FAMILY CONTACT LOG, for staff to enter information after they contact families. The intent is for teachers to establish positive relationships with all of their families. With this strong Tier I approach; it was easier for staff to continue to contact families after their school closed.
After closing, all classroom teachers called their families. This time, to ask about their wellness and how can the school support them? Staff continue to call families weekly and enter information on the FAMILY CONTACT LOG. To protect a family’s confidentiality, teachers do not enter confidential information on the shared spread sheet. They contact the person on the SUPPORT TEAM they feel can best meet the family’s need. Teachers also note families they are having difficulty reaching by phone.
Tier II and III
The SUPPORT TEAM convenes weekly virtual meetings to discuss next steps. The SUPPORT TEAM is composed of the principal, elementary and secondary counselors, LCSW and MSW (licensed clinical social worker and social worker from community agency), family support worker, student support services, and instructional assistants (working with families of ELL students). Members of the SUPPORT TEAM follows up and contact families directly.
Madrona Elementary- Principal Mary McDaniel
Before the 2018-19 school year began, Principal McDaniel sent copies of BUILDING RESILIENCE IN STUDENTS IMPACTED BY ADVERSE EXPERIENCES to all of her certificated and non-certificated staff. Ricky Robertson and I helped to open the school year by providing professional development for her staff and two community agencies. Her supervisor and a member of the parent association were also in attendance. Principal McDaniel opened the session sharing her own childhood. It wasn’t until she read the book, that she was in touch with her own trauma she experienced during childhood. She made a commitment to her staff about prioritizing self-care for all of them. Throughout the school year, Ricky worked with the MTSS/SEL team while I continued to work with staff. By the end of the year, Madrona Elementary had a strong trauma sensitive MTSS tiered system. In addition to using a social emotional curriculum, all of the classrooms had cool down areas that students could use to self- regulate. A tap in/tap out system provided immediate support to staff. At the time of the COVID-19 school closure, there were six students in Tier I but bordering Tier II; nine students at Tier II and six at Tier III. Principal McDaniel shared that the longer her school remains closed, she anticipates her Tier II and III numbers will grow.
Teachers are checking in with families twice a week and asking wellness questions- what do you need and how can we support you. Teachers alert the principal if they have families they are concerned about or have difficulty reaching. The principal triages and contacts the best person on the MTSS/SEL team to meet that family’s needs. The administrative office assistant follows up and makes more attempts to contact the families teachers are having trouble reaching. Special Education teachers, general education teachers and support staff participate in virtual learning communities for support planning. Principal McDaniel emailed or mailed a list of social service agencies to all of the families.
Madrona Elementary is in a neighborhood that is gentrifying. The parent association has always been thoughtful about this delicate dynamic. Their fundraising goals ensure that all of the students at the school can participate in after school activities and go on field trips. All of the families are members of the national PTA because their fees are paid by the Madrona PTSA. After the school closed, Madrona’s PTSA did a special fundraising and revised their budgets to continue to support all their families. They distribute food packages and gift cards ranging in denominations of $25-100. They work closely with the principal and family support worker. Once a week, the family support worker and parents distribute food and gift cards in front of the school taking careful consideration and pre-caution for physical distancing.
Tier II and III
Madrona’s SEL (social-emotional) Team is composed of the principal, vice-principal, 2 MSWs, Behavior Interventionist, and Family Support Worker.
One of the social workers is from the same community agency South Shore uses. In addition, Madrona also has a mental health specialist from a community health clinic. This clinic also provides health care for many Madrona families. The mental health specialists on Madrona’s SEL team continue to provide virtual counseling to the students that were on their target list before school closure. The counselor shared that with some of her students, it’s actually become family therapy as all members are beginning to participate in their child’s sessions.
Principal McDaniel and her team are beginning discussions about possible steps for re-entry when schools resume.