Principal of Patrick J Kennedy Elementary School Kristen Goncalves said her school community has been greatly impacted by the pandemic this past year in multiple ways and has searched for ways to help rebuild the emotional well being of students and staff.
In February, the Kennedy applied for a Boston Schools Fund grant back in February for extra resources to help fill the gaps that will be left by the pandemic as the school returns to a ‘new normal’.
Last week the Boston Schools Fund announced that the Kennedy was one of five Boston schools chosen to receive a $20,000 Re-Centering Implementation grant to equip school leaders with the tools, extra resources, and capacity they need to re-center on what matters the most for students and staff.
The grant will help support programs to address the social-emotional wellness of all students, staff, and families; individualized understanding of student learning needs; and evidence-based, therapeutic approaches to learning that acknowledge the past year of trauma the pandemic has caused.
“This grant will help us support students, families, and staff with social-emotional needs and develop academic recovery plans that will be crucial for our school next year,” said Goncalves. “It’s really cool because we get to work with partners who supported us in creating our plan for getting through the pandemic this year. Honestly, we couldn’t have done it without their support. So we’re going through our toolkit to make a personalized plan for our school moving forward but also looking at best practices on how we can recover, recuperate and think of innovative ways that we can change education post-pandemic.”
Goncalves said the Kennedy’s Re-centering Grant will help the school identify where exactly gaps are.
“You hear a lot about learning loss or instructional gap but we really don’t know what it is right now,” she said. “We know our kids came back in and when we opened back up we’ve got 80% of our kids back and they’ve got some strong skills and our teaching was working but we need this grant to help us identify exactly where we need to pinpoint and target our instruction for next year.”
Goncalves said she is personally and mostly concerned with social emotional support, not only for the school’s kids but also for the staff.
“We know that we really ramped up social emotional support for this entire year and that was our main focus,” she said. “Our families and staff have been in isolation for a year and I think we’ve all felt it in some way.”
founder and CEO of Boston Schools Fund Will Austin said students, families and educators have lost so much in the last 14 months.
“We can’t wait,” he said. “We need to put resources towards these kids now.”
The Re-Centering Implementation grants are part of an overall $250,000 effort by the nonprofit to support post pandemic education in Boston.
Boston Schools Fund has also released a School Re-Centering Guide, a nationally researched, evidenced-based toolkit any Boston school or district leader can use to address pandemic-related learning loss and focus on holistic student recovery.
“Even with massive resources coming in from the federal government, educators need the capacity to ensure they are using their resources as well as possible,” says Austin.
The Guide and accompanying interactive website include comprehensive planning tools and materials grounded in best practices for student culture, curriculum and instruction, social-emotional wellness, talent management, and family engagement, among others.