Education Think Tank in Boston Creates Blueprint for Reopening Schools

The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy helps educators keep social and emotional learning top of mind

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An education research and policy think tank in Boston has created a blueprint for reopening schools this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The goal of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy is to help educators keep social and emotional learning top of mind.

Jacinthe Albani, of Framingham, is one of many parents who said she's not only worried about her children's academic progress this year, but their social and emotional well-being. The concerns are increased with the uncertainty of whether schools will be learning remotely or by hybrid learning modules.

"A lot of anxiety, and emotional issues, it's been really, really hard," Albani said.

Albani said her sixth-grade son misses his friends as well as the social interactions.

"He misses his teachers, and he didn't have a proper goodbye from his graduation in fifth grade, so that's a really hard time for kids right now," she said.

The Rennie Center has created a Back-to-School Blueprint that's an interactive series of research-based online action guides to help schools prepare to reopen.

"There was a survey of students done where 50% of students reported feeling more depressed or anxious as a result of the school closures," said Laura Dziorny, Deputy Director of the Rennie Center. "Making students feel valued, making them understand that they're part of this larger community can help them then build trust in that connection."

As Massachusetts schools get their plans ready for reopening this fall, one superintendent is showing exactly what things will look like for students and staff.

Dziorny said peer-to-peer connections are just as important as the parent-teacher-student triangle when trying to avoid having students fall through the cracks.

"It affects students' motivation," Dziorny said. "It affects their willingness to connect and their interest in a kind of continuing to stay engaged in assignments."

With some students experiencing COVID-related trauma, like sickness in their family or unemployment, having the structure in school becomes increasingly important, Dziorny said.

"Starting to create some of those week-to-week or day-to-day structures that students can rely on is part of it," Dziorny said. "In addition, we've seen the importance of mindfulness techniques and working some of those in during the day as well."

Teachers also need social-emotional support during this time – including additional resources and time to process all the sudden changes to their profession, Dziorny said.

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