Students’ social and emotional wellness a priority for district

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By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer

Westborough – With many students returning to school soon, teachers, parents and the community need to be aware that the transition back should not be taken lightly, officials say.

On March 10, Roger Anderson, director of wellness and physical education, spoke to the Westborough School Committee about on-going measures to look after the social and emotional wellness of students.

“The return of school is a significant event,” he said. “While many of us wish the pandemic was over and returning kids to school would simply solve things, we need to remain vigilant that this is a change in our kids’ lives.”

He added that even positive changes are still changes.

Westborough schools double down on mental health supports

The district will be offering more information about an upcoming parent series where families can learn specific ways to support their child with routines, connections, opportunities and validation, he said.

“We’ll be clear with movement breaks and how they can stay physically active and well,” Anderson said.

A young adult program will feature recent graduates who will share stories of hope. It’s all an attempt to de-stigmatizing mental health and the process of accessing help, he said.

In addition, training is ongoing helping teachers and counselors ensure that “trauma-informed classrooms and practices” continue as the pandemic wanes.

“The social and emotional piece [of this] has to be embraced by all,” Anderson said.

Where students are struggling, resources will be provided so that school is the best place for them to be.

“When students feel safe, they can learn,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Sherrie Stevens, Director of Student Services, emphasized that tending to the social and emotional well-being of students is “embedded and ingrained,” in the school culture. It happens organically.

Because of the pandemic, these practices are now just even more crucial, they said.

School Committee, administrators elaborate on district mental health goals

Responding to this presentation, School Committee Member Raghu Nandan stressed the importance of having structures in place so that peers, teachers and others can identify students about whom they are concerned.

Assistant Superintendent Daniel Mayer said that Westborough is working with a mental health consortium to build systems to catch early signs of mental health crises kids might be experiencing, especially this year.

Superintendent Amber Bock added that the district is further identifying ways to celebrate and honor senior students who have missed out on many ceremonies and events leading up to the end of their high school careers. She said staff want to provide closure and recognition as much as possible.

School committee member Lisa Edinberg, finally, said that families who are struggling should reach out to teachers and the counselors so that they can assist in finding helpful resources.