The July 14, 2022, Safety & Student Wellness ad hoc meeting started with updates from stakeholder group liaisons. Liaisons have connected with scores of organizations, including non-profits and neighborhood sessions. They have held in-person and virtual feedback sessions and also offered one-on-one interviews.
There are two final important feedback sessions slated to occur toward the end of July. Once these have taken place, there will be a report compiled based on these sessions. So far, the most common themes liaisons have heard is that folks would like more mental health and social-emotional services available in schools, that Student Services staff are overworked. Organizations are interested in investing time and resources to come into schools to supplement this work so that students don't feel like they need to assess their safety or constantly be on guard when they enter school. They report that even our youngest students are feeling the emotional toll and stress of not only the pandemic but hearing about incidents at other schools and being concerned as they progress through grade school and beyond.
Student committee members were asked for their reaction to this and they did not feel surprised to hear that younger students are feeling anxious. Students pointed out the ratio of students to psychologists, believing that there needs to be more staff to support students.
Michael Jones pointed out that similar discussions have been taking place in weekly meetings with district leaders, health staff, student services staff, and members of MMSD's health advisory panel, and that they are working hard to find more staff for the upcoming school year. He pointed out that while MMSD has been able to hire some additional support staff, it is a challenge even just finding staff to hire.
A question was asked about whether the stakeholder groups offered any sort of action steps, but so far the questions being asked were more about the vision for wellness and safety and not about explicit action steps or specific resources they are coming to the table with. Yet even this is expected to prove difficult with limited financial resources from the district and community organizations. Later, the group discussed adding something to the website, a form or a survey, inviting community organizations to indicate specifically how they are ready to help.
Members discussed the one-time COVID relief funds the school district received to spend for a finite period of time, which, committee leaders explained, is not conducive for long-term staffing planning or contracting with partners over time. A representative from Student and Staff Support will be attending an upcoming meeting to speak to members about this.
Members then talked through a Committee Action Grid that they will use to collaborate and plan for potential recommendations to the board and to track district progress. They were reminded that in the last meeting they decided to move from the visioning pre-work and focus now on actions. As such, the themes that emerged were mental health and school crisis response. Committee leaders have been categorizing the recommendations they have been hearing into these two buckets to work from when developing recommendations, as well as setting target deadlines. Under school crisis response, one of the next steps is for a member(s) of the district's Critical Response Team, specifically as it relates to communications, to attend the next meeting.
The committee discussed the frequency with which they would provide recommendations to the board, and there was an idea to potentially offer them quarterly, rather than all at once.
Members discussed the next meeting dates and the consensus was that after the next meeting, scheduled for July 28, the committee could meet August 11 and 25.