Re-Opening Our Schools In Unprecedented Times
SSWN readers: we are in an extraordinary and unprecedented time, as our PreK-12 schools prepare to re-open during a pandemic that is still raging around much of our country. As I write this on a Sunday morning, I realize that some of you have been in schools that are “open” since early August, while others are starting class anytime between now and mid-September. Wherever you and your school is, I hope you are well and doing what you can to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your schools.
As school social workers, while we all have that familiar uncertainty, excitement and anxiety that comes with any new school year (I remember how it felt for me each late August from 1992-2006 when I was a practicing school social worker), this is something altogether different this Fall. This is obviously a new school year unlike any in our lifetimes, with new feelings and fears. Many of us are in schools that have decided to start school completely online; others are starting with a hybrid of online and in-person school time; and finally a portion of our schools have decided to press on and re-open school for 5 days a week, with kids and adults in the building all week. None of those options are ideal, and all of them carry significant risks, though at last count, 21 of the 25 largest school districts in the U.S. have decided to start the year with virtual e-learning, and many public health researchers expect that many of us that are starting in person or in hybrid arrangements may be doing virtual schooling later this Fall as the flu season combines with the pandemic. That we’re trying to do all of this in a country that lacks a coherent national COVID-19 public strategy like countries that were able to (mostly) successfully re-open their schools makes it even more fraught with uncertainty as well. There’s so much we simply don’t know, and so much of the best available evidence and science that is available to our national and state leaders has been disregarded in favor of a push to re-open America’s economy. (And oh yeah, we have one of the most consequential national elections in decades in 2 1/2 months too.)
At SSWN and SSWNetwork, we’re here for you in all this, and I wanted to share some resources and upcoming events that we hope will support you in your work this Fall:
- First, a thank you: with your participation, we were able to complete our “SSW in a Pandemic” survey and share our findings with key policymakers at the state and federal levels. NASW (one of our national survey partners) wrote a nice article about the project on their blog (pictured above) and they have shared it with all the Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill that are working on education, mental health, and COVID-19 related issues. There is also work underway to have a possible Congressional briefing organized around our teams’ findings this Fall. Here’s the article we wrote for SSWN on the project that contains our technical report and policy brief.
- Join our SSWNetwork Re-opening Groups & share what you’re doing: As of today, 160 of our SSWNetwork members have joined one of the 3 Re-opening Groups we’ve organized over at SSWNetwork to help facilitate resource sharing and build community as we all grapple with how to deliver our SSW services this Fall and support our students and school community. We will have a rotating group of moderators for each group from our Loyola SMHAPP Certificate student leaders, and as always it’s 100% free to join SSWNetwork if you haven’t already. Join today by finding the relevant group in the “Groups” menu tab, introduce yourself, and share what’s working and what you need help with as you start your school year!
- Sign up for a free Professional Learning Community hosted on SSWNetwork’s Zoom channel: In addition to the resource sharing and community we hope to build in our asynchronous SSWNetwork Re-opening Groups, we are planning to offer 3 PLCs starting in mid-September for interested school clinicians who want to work together and support each other this year. The PLCs will be co-led by Loyola SMHAPP students who are working with the same re-opening scenario you are (virtual learning, face-to-face, or hybrid) and will meet monthly via Zoom starting in mid-September. Watch SSWN and SSWNetwork for the sign-up announcement coming soon–spots will be limited to 15 people per PLC and based on that poll we did, will likely fill up fast.
- Read (and maybe re-visit) the many great resources our SSWNetwork and SMHAPP colleagues have already published on SSWN: This has been an amazing year on SSWN, with so many of you sharing your practice wisdom and expertise with all of us. Below I’m re-posting just a few of the MANY great articles and webinars on our site right now, and I encourage you to share these resources with your colleagues as well (and possibly re-visit ones you read last Spring when our schools first went into virtual learning). We are also committed to continuing to produce high-quality articles, webinars, live chats, FacebookLive events, and other resources for the 2020-21 school year. E-mail me at [email protected] if you have ideas for an article you would like to write, and along with our SSWN Managing Editor Sean Delaney, we’ll help you get it ready to publish on SSWN.
Resources for Re-opening: Tools, Strategies, & Inspirations
Resources for Re-opening: Working Towards Anti-Racist School Mental Health Practice
Resources for Re-opening: SSW Self-care & Professional Development During a Pandemic