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Social-Emotional Learning Equity

Paving a Path Forward for School Reopening: The 3 Biggest Takeaways From Our Virtual Meetup with Kansas and Missouri Districts

Education leaders are navigating uncharted territory as they plan for school re-entry after a global pandemic.

While each district is writing its own script, it’s more important than ever to break down silos between schools and collaborate on strategies for moving forward. As Adam Smith, executive director of student services at Mehlville School District, put it: “We learn more together.”

In June 2020, as part of Panorama’s Celebrating Resilience: A Summer Series, we hosted a virtual meet-up for nearly 100 state, school, and district leaders from across Kansas and Missouri. The goal: to connect education leaders who are committed to prioritizing equity and SEL as they collectively traverse the many unknowns of return to school this fall.

This virtual community meetup included breakout rooms for peer-sharing, interactive presentations from Liberty Public Schools (MO) and Mehlville School District (MO), and professional learning on how to approach reopening with an eye towards equity and cultural responsiveness.

Here is a list of our top takeaways from the meetup that you can share back with your team.


Key Takeaways From Our Virtual Meetup With District Leaders in Kansas and Missouri


All students will return to school this fall having experienced trauma

When schools reopen this fall, all students (and staff) will be coming back having experienced some level of trauma. Some students will be socially overstimulated. Others will struggle with increased academic demands. Many will need to readjust their sleep patterns. 

In several breakout rooms, individuals emphasized the importance of social-emotional learning for all students. They also spoke about the imperative of generating universal buy-in for SEL in general education classrooms, versus targeted SEL instruction for only students in Tier 2 and/or Tier 3. 

Jessica Meisenheimer, director of special programs at Liberty Public Schools, explained how her team is planning to address the evolving needs of students:

"When our students return in September, it will have been almost six months that they have been away from us. These students have likely experienced significant trauma since schools closed. We must figure out what cultural, personal, academic and emotional supports they need."

jessica-m–Dr. Jessica Meisenheimer, Director of Special Programs

Seek to understand how students, staff, and families have experienced distance learning

To better understand student, staff, and family needs in this period of uncertainty and upheaval, several district leaders spoke about the need to capture data to inform decision-making.

Earlier this spring, Mehlville School District administered three new surveys to assess the impact of distance learning and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). According to Adam Smith, executive director of student services in Mehlville, the district rolled out:

It’s critical for us to understand how students, staff, and family experienced the transition to distance learning. But it’s equally important to know how they are functioning as human beings, and what resources and support they need at home.

Download Panorama's Distance Learning Surveys

For Christopher Hand, director of assessment at Liberty Public Schools, continuing with similar assessments into the fall will be crucial to inform district-wide decisions. 

"Schools are data rich and learner information poor. We have lots of data at our fingertips, but we don’t always know how to put it into action. We need to alter our processes to: (1) consider student voice, and; (2) learn how to look at the data to inform decisions."

christoper-hand–Christopher Hand, Director of Assessment

Act on data to respond to the multi-dimensional needs of your community

Topic(s): Social-Emotional Learning , Equity

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