One of Boulder Valley School District’s top priorities is creating a safe environment that gives students the best opportunity to learn and succeed. A big component of that is ensuring that students are taught social and emotional skills. Before a student can begin to learn, they must feel safe.
“It is the number one thing, says Creekside Elementary Principal, Francine Eufemia. “They absolutely cannot learn if they don’t feel safe, cared for, and supported at school.
In the 2017-18 school year, BVSD launched the elementary counseling program, starting with part-time counselors at all elementary schools. Now in year three, all but six elementary schools have a full-time counselor in their buildings, and the other six have a half time counselor.
With the addition of this full-time staff member, counselors can now integrate their work throughout the entire school. Elementary counselors go into classrooms and work with students and their teachers on social-emotional lessons, such as being kind, bullying awareness and prevention, and self-regulation.
“Things in our building changed drastically when we received the full-time counselor allocation,” says Eufemia. “When something comes up in a grade level around a certain issue, he will cater the lessons to what is needed. Sound universal instruction for social-emotional needs is important in building a safe, positive learning environment for all students.”
Counselors also bring together small groups of students with particular needs or issues to help lead discussions, as well as help students who need one on one attention.
“It is so crucial. It’s another adult that students can feel safe and make a connection with,” says Eufemia”
BVSD counselors are also working on creating a new counseling curriculum for grades PK-12 to help support all students and identify basic levels of instruction that will happen at all schools across the district.
In addition to the full rollout of the elementary counseling program, the district is focusing on bullying prevention and response as part of the new strategic plan (All Together for All Students) launched this fall.
During the August and September district professional development days, over 500 staff and teachers received bullying training through an entirely student-led presentation and workshop that was profoundly impactful for those who attended.
“To see the students lead and have the poise to speak to an auditorium full of people who were fully engaged was just amazing,” says BVSD Director of Student Support, Tammy Lawrence.
The training discussed a variety of topics including student rights, what is bullying, recognizing bullying, strategies and interventions around bullying, and the bystander effect.
The work on bullying continues amongst staff at the district and school levels, with the goal of having a comprehensive Board bullying policy by the end of the school year. Stakeholders will also be asked for feedback once this new policy is drafted to have their voices and concerns heard and incorporated.
“We need to create the system and structure for addressing bullying from all angles,” says Lawrence. “Our overall hope is that our students feel supported and safe in school, and if there is an issue they have a direct line for support.