Lancaster ISD Successfully Navigates Challenges Of the Pandemic

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Lancaster ISD Emphasizes Social Emotional Learning

LANCASTER – Lancaster ISD says they have navigated the pain points from COVID-19. They’ve have successfully implemented a social emotional learning curriculum that has helped nearly 8,000 students with distance learning. Its also helped with conflict resolution in the home and maintaining focus.

While the pandemic and remote learning put pressure on schools and students, Lancaster ISD was able to implement SEL at home with their district wide SEL program.

Kendall Sweeney, MTW program manager who supports Lancaster ISD said “They adopted the program before the pandemic as a way to provide support for students and strengthen their school communities. As more states adopt SEL standards, Lancaster ISD chose to utilize a resource that follows a scope and sequence and provides evidence-based, standard-aligned curriculum to keep the district ahead of the curve.”

Sweeney went on to say that while many districts are just now realizing the relevancy and importance of social emotional learning, Lancaster had already invested in long-term SEL development. They were able to adapt during the pandemic to meet the needs of students and families.

“Lastly, their counseling team had strong involvement in the program,” Sweeney added. “The schools are taking a very cohesive approach to their implementation, to ensure that it is not just the teachers that are familiar with the program but all staff throughout the school.”

Across the state, school districts, parents and educators have been scrambling with three things:

  • The pandemic and lack of resources to a) help students deal with the feelings related to distance learning and b) prepare them emotionally to go back to school in-person;
  • With the 2021-22 budget allocation districts are deciding right now how to allocate resources for next year. This is complicated by the fact that students may or may not return;
  • Evolving SEL standards, which means curriculum standards are changing, on a state-by-state basis.

“Move This World” Made Transition To Virtual Learning Easier

It was Dr. Tonia Howard, Chief of Leadership Development and Special Programs who spearheaded this navigation. She said, “Before the pandemic began, our administrators had already expressed an increased need to support students, who were struggling with social and emotional challenges. The year prior, we began implementing a curriculum, Move This World, that was easy to transition to virtual instruction during the pandemic. We allotted funds from our federal grant to support a district-wide implementation plan so that we would have continuity across all grade levels.”

Howard said it was important that all students learn a common language to address their social and emotional needs at school and home.

“We have discovered that our staff and families, more than ever, also have these struggles and we are putting resources into place to better support our entire school/district community,” Howard added.

CREST Award For Lancaster High School

As for next steps, Lancaster ISD is continuing to prioritize SEL district wide. Lancaster HS was recently awarded the CREST award. It is one of the highest counseling honors in the state. Lancaster ISD credits their evidence based SEL program MTW as a strong component that earned them the accolade. They will use this momentum to continue to improve SEL and mental health supports in schools throughout the district.

“We’re able to push through challenges in our field because the needs of children- their achievement and wellness are at the center of every decision we make, concluded Cherish Pipkins, Principal and Rolling Hills Elementary. “The pandemic has forced us to be even more intentional about meeting the needs of our students and staff. We’re very much aware of how face to face and virtual students are impacted during this time.”