While districts brace for a loss of academic learning and wider equity gaps in the fall, the global pandemic is emerging as an opportunity to build social-emotional skills.

“We’re seeing a significant uptick in interest in social-emotional learning from districts,” Melissa Schlinger, vice president of practice and programs at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, said. She noted isolation and rapid changes are highlighting the importance of emotional management, relationship and problem-solving skills that can help students cope.

At the most basic level, districts have prioritized, prior to or in conjunction with academic learning, reaching out to families and students to build or strengthen relationships.

“There are a lot of people that are experiencing a lot of things for the first time,” Kelly Griffith, superintendent of Talbot County Schools in Maryland, said. “We need to make sure we’re reaching out to them and not waiting for them to reach out to us.”

In addition to guiding families and students to resources as unemployment rates soar, Griffith said her district is prioritizing working with social services, therapists and local officers to do wellness checks.

Many hope and expect the renewed focus on SEL ​to continue, or even ramp up, when students are back in school.

It can’t just be “business as usual,” Schlinger said, because “we are going to be dealing with a very new landscape after this.” Students and staff will be returning with collective trauma, higher anxiety levels and more stress after dealing with everything from child abuse and neglect to unemployment and loss of life.

Read the full article about social-emotional learning by Naaz Modan Education Dive.