Prior to the cancellation of classes, Northern Light Public Schools witnessed a strong start to implementing key strategies to improve the Numeracy Skills and the Mental Health & Wellness of students. It started with collectively defining Mental Health & Wellness as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can learn/work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her school/community (based on the definition from The World Health Organization).
Planned key strategies were categorized into Universal, Targeted and Individualized. Some of these actions included schools enhancing the welcoming practices for all students, developing a menu of supports to build staff capacity, the Wonder Project, creating training session for staff titled Heads Up 101, hosting a Poverty Simulation event for staff, enhancing the use of Student Advocacy Counsellors (SAC’s), and further utilizing the Community Helpers Program.
Schools aligned their plans with this priority, and looked at implementing not only these actions but also additional actions based on specific school needs. The various strategies and actions were in different stages of implementation when classes were cancelled in March.
At that time not only did staff quickly and effectively change their instructional practices to facilitate remote learning opportunities for students, they also adapted, modified, and added to the strategies to support the Mental Health & Wellness of students. This included actions such as:
- The grant-funded Successful Families Successful Kids (SFSK) team implemented a virtual Menu of Supports for students, families and staff.
- Communications supported the creation of a web page devoted to Mental Health and Wellness. As well, messages called Wellness Wednesdays were sent out on a weekly basis to connect with and support families. This required collaboration among a variety of partners and staff. The website and weekly messages focused on supports needed due to COVID related needs.
- Student Advocacy Counsellors utilized a virtual platform to facilitate digital counselling opportunities.
- The Community Helpers Program continued to assist students as they supported each other.
- Schools continued with the implementation of some of the strategies as outlined on their school plans.
- Division and School staff deliberately focused on the Connection component of Mental Health and Wellness.
- A strategic year long schedule was developed with a theme per month for the division that facilitates focused activities by counsellors, partners, schools and communications. For example, September of 2020 is kindness month.
- The need for mental health and wellness staff such as the SFSK team and the manager of SAC’s and Community Supports became much more evident during this challenging time.
- Support documents were inserted into the Food For Thought hampers delivered to students/families in need on a weekly basis.
And finally, a key measure to determine progress toward the goal was a Student Wellness Survey. Due to students not being at school it was not possible to administer the survey in a reliable, valid manner. Barring further complications due to the pandemic, plans are in place to administer the survey for baseline purposes in May of 2021.