With the 2019-2020 school year in the rearview mirror, school leaders and staff have an opportunity to shift some of their attention from crisis response to crisis recovery. For many students, especially the most vulnerable such as those experiencing chronic homelessness and food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a considerable social and emotional toll. From grieving the passing of loved ones to dealing with escalating incidences of domestic violence and economic recession, many students and staff will return to school in the fall with trauma that can adversely affect their teaching and learning.
At REL Mid-Atlantic, we're committed to helping improve teaching, learning, and school leadership. To help educators use trauma-informed strategies to address the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had on school communities nationwide, we've distilled guidance released by federal agencies, national professional associations, and federally funded research collaboratives and technical assistance centers such as the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and the National Association of School Psychologists. To help set priorities before schools reopen their doors in the coming weeks, these resources suggest that responding to COVID-19-related trauma will warrant an iterative strategy that involves several steps:
Read our fact sheet to learn how school staff can begin to carry out the first three stages now before school resumes. To develop and execute a trauma-informed plan that is representative of the school community, culturally responsive, and equitable, schools should think broadly as they determine who to engage in this process. We offer two considerations:
Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic will be a long-term process. School administrators, classroom teachers, specialists, noninstructional staff, students, their families, and the larger community all have a role to play as schools reopen. Sharing the responsibility for creating and sustaining a trauma-informed school culture will help all school members navigate the uncertain road ahead.