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Lynn looks to improve public school culture with K-5 social-emotional learning curriculum

LYNN — Lynn Public Schools will roll out a new K-5 social-emotional learning curriculum next year, with the focus on improving school culture and creating a sense of community for students.

One of School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler’s district improvement goals, the curriculum will be implemented at the K-2 level in September and in grades 3-5 in January.

Carolyn Troy, the district’s executive director of social and emotional learning, said it’s integral for schools to create a culture for students to learn about others’ interests, opinions, and ideas, and treat one another with care and respect.

Children learn best in environments where their social, emotional, psychological and academic needs are met, which will in turn make them feel more comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks necessary for learning, she said.

“Social-emotional curriculum is one step towards equity for students,” Troy said. “In a social-emotional curriculum, you are helping students feel safe to take risks, to make mistakes, to learn how to identify when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or stressed, or other things. We know that when you’re feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed, the part of your brain that is allowed to learn and have memory gets shut down.”

An SEL curriculum can help level the playing field for students who experience trauma or for those who are learning through disabilities, Troy said.

School Committee member Jared Nicholson said it’s important for all students to learn social-emotional skills so they can become successful at whatever they do.

School administrative officials have opted to use the Caring School for Community resource for social-emotional instruction at a cost of $75,000, which was approved by the School Committee last Thursday.

The focus of the program and curriculum is on viewing social-emotional learning as existing within a larger context, such as having a supportive home environment, peer systems and school culture.

The curriculum will be aimed at promoting family and community engagement with an onus placed on the student building relationships and feeling a sense of community at school, which in turn will make them feel valued and want to learn, according to Troy.

Deputy Superintendent Kimberlee Powers said implementing the curriculum is not just about purchasing the resource. There needs to be professional development for teachers, which is expected to cost about $12,000. There will be five full-time staff members dedicated to social-emotional learning at the elementary level, two of whom are being paid for through a grant.

In addition, next year the district will fund collaborative work to identify a social-emotional learning curriculum for middle and high schools, but it was unclear when the goal was to implement at the secondary levels.

“It’s no secret we really want SEL to be implemented in all of our schools,” said School Committee member Michael Satterwhite. “I know we have to start somewhere. We have many kids who have experienced trauma and are having difficulty in our schools.”

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