Since the pandemic first hit in the spring of 2020, school districts have been working tirelessly to bring students
back to schools safely. The importance of in-person instruction paired with the monumental efforts that districts, their staffs, and their communities have been engaged in cannot be understated.
Through the past two years, we have seen communities come together like never before with the shared goal of supporting their students. Even with these tremendous efforts, we now realize the additional challenges that the pandemic has brought. As most students have been back in school buildings for much of this past year, it is not enough to get our students back into buildings and back to the status quo. We must take additional steps to reengage them with their school communities.
The root of student success stems from their ability to be engaged in the larger school community. The current challenges our students, families, and communities face are significant and real. We are seeing increased exposure to trauma and increased mental health concerns. Our students need our support more than ever. Physical isolation has heightened the need for connection in addition to the curriculum. As we return to in-person instruction, we are seeing enrollment, behavioral, and mental health challenges at alarming rates. A sense of belonging and positive relationships is crucial to fostering whole child development and their ability to reach their full potential. This issue will delve into the question of how do we reengage our students and families into their educational communities during and through the pandemic?
The good news is that the tools to reengage our students and communities are out there. Investing in the social and emotional development of students supports in building a strong sense of community and self-efficacy. Valuing and empowering student voice and taking a purposeful approach to building campus relationships can lay the foundation for highly engaged students. Additionally, working to engage all stakeholders with an intentional focus on equity can work to reengage students from remote instruction. It also can begin to repair the harms of institutional and structural racism that have kept some of our students and families from feeling that they were fully part of the community prior to the pandemic.
This newsletter will help you to develop an understanding of student engagement and the impacts the pandemic has had. It will also look at evidence-based best practices to begin the process of reengaging students and the community at large. Please reach out with any questions or comments using the online discussion group to engage other subscribers from around the country or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued interest and commitment to helping foster safe and inclusive schools for all our students and district employees.
Director, NSBA Center for Safe Schools