As schools across the country are reopening this fall, it is critically important to focus on students’ safety and their mental health well-being. New policies and plans are being placed in many schools to tackle the COVID-19 related mental health trauma and to create a healthy learning environment on the campus.
Urging educators and schools to protect students from the Coronavirus, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said that schools must provide a safe and healthy environment to promote students’ well-being and recovery.
Here are the top 3 tips that schools must adopt to promote a healthy and learning environment in school.
School must come up with new and health meal program
Providing healthy meals at school plays a significant role in student growth, mental well-being, and academic performance. Many health experts suggest that in the view of COVID-19, the school must come up with comprehensive plans regarding the new meal program. School staff can get in touch with nutritionists and food experts to establish a new meal program in school.
Children, who majorly rely on school lunch, have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that forced schools to shut. Before COVID-19, nearly 30 million students each school day in approximately 95,000 public and private schools nationwide had been receiving lunch every day funded by the National School Lunch Program. But students and school staff realized the real challenge regarding healthy meals soon after schools asked to shut and adopt online learning to curb the Coronavirus spread. The research also said that pandemic has disrupted children’s meals that adversely affected their health and academic achievement.
Experts also believe that poor and unhealthy meals are also responsible for not participating in learning opportunities in the classrooms. Symptoms like headache, fatigue, irritability, listlessness, and absenteeism are very common in lower-age students because of nutrition deficiencies and unhygienic foods.
School plays a vital role in providing healthy meals. A recent study claims that school is the only place that provides a healthiest and good quality of food compared to restaurants, grocery stores, and other sources. The report says that over 45 percent of children ate bad quality food from grocery stores while only 24 percent of children consumed poor quality meals in schools.
US Department of Education suggests plans for the school to fight against food insecurity among school children.
Providing healthy meals in schools
Supporting student social and mental health need
Creating a physically and emotionally safe environment by a school is also an important factor for student academic performance. Experts believe that a school-wide holistic approach is needed to support social and mental health to students. Schools can deploy health professionals like counselors, nurses, psychologists, and well-trained volunteers or social workers to address the urgent need to tackle mental health problems in the students.
It goes without saying that the way COVID-19 pandemic has exposed children’s mental health trauma and learning disruption since the hybrid learning setting was adopted.
According to CDC, Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
US Department of Education recommends the key evidence-based practices that maximize students’ social, emotional, and academic benefits include:
• Creating a framework for meeting students’ social, emotional, and academic needs;
• Building strong and trusting relationships among students, families, and educators;
• Establishing safe, positive, and stable environments;
• Explicitly teaching critical social, emotional, and academic skills;
• Actively engaging students in meaningful and culturally and linguistically relevant learning experiences rooted in high academic expectations for all students.
Providing a safe and inclusive learning environment
Inclusive learning means providing equal education for all the children in schools—no matter their race, sex, religion, region in the classrooms. Schools must ensure that all the pupils are accessing equal learning programs and opportunities in the classroom. It does not include any special treatment to any student. In the inclusive learning environment, the school does not create discrimination among the students—-whether they are white or black, students with destabilizing, students come from a low-income background, or even English is not their primary language.