Take the normal first day of school anxiety and compound it with the stress of a pandemic, social unrest and isolation.
“These are areas that deserve an intensive focus every year but especially this year,” said Abigail Gray, the Philadelphia School District’s deputy chief of school climate and culture.
That’s why Philadelphia schools are taking 30 minutes each day for social support time, as part of a program called Healing Together.
“All students will have the opportunity to participate in daily community meetings with their classmates and their teachers,” Gray said in a district Zoom call with reporters. “This is built right into their schedule.”
Gray said the program targets trauma, social and emotional learning, relationships and adult wellness with a focus on equity and anti-racism.
“We know that adults whose own needs are not being met will struggle to meet the needs of students,” she said.
Richard Gordon, the principal at Paul Robeson High School, said he’s encouraging more communication among his staff members to manage tensions.
“This is new learning for everyone,” Gordon said. “And so that anxiety that you’re feeling? Imagine how a student feels when they’re sitting in a classroom and they are studying material that’s brand new to them and they’re having a difficult time with it. That’s the anxiety that our students are feeling.”
Gray said for the first time, the district will have a mental health provider at every school to provide support to students and adults who need it.