When students came to class in person, the private St. Malachy School in North Philadelphia was equipped with a robust emotional support program to help kids deal with trauma.
The 11th and Thompson building offered its 275 students access to a space called the Peace Room. It was stocked with bean bag chairs, books, music, snacks — even an elliptical, in case they needed to get some energy out. There were two full-time staffers working the room at all times, one of whom is a counselor.
When in-person learning was shut down in March, the Peace Room went dark. Malachy staff could no longer casually chat with students on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the pandemic added stress to everyone’s life, and neighborhood violence continued to swirl.
So Malachy moved the whole program online. Teachers use Google Classroom and Zoom breakout sessions to monitor their students’ mental health.
“There were a few virtual hiccups,” Kevin Hartley, head of Malachy’s Peace Room, told Billy Penn. “Everything was happening so rapidly, but eventually, we found a solid method.”
With shootings rising at an unprecedented rate, the cash-strapped School District of Philadelphia is trying a similar approach, using funding from Medicaid originally meant to supplement in-school programs.
“Violence has definitely increased over the last couple months,” said Jayme Banks, the School District of Philadelphia’s director of trauma informed school practices. “Even prior to this we knew that our children experience a lot, and we wanted to support our kids.”
To read the full article by Michaela Winberg, click here.