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NYC Schools Prioritizing Social Emotional Learning To Help Students Cope With Emotional Toll Of COVID Pandemic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Communities across the world celebrated the importance of social emotional learning Friday.

In a time when the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone's mental health, teachers are learning to respond to the needs of their students.

Pre-K students at Public School 73 in the Bronx start their day with a five-minute meditation. This is one example of social emotional learning that focuses on mental health and overall wellness.

"When you do social emotional learning, you have less behavior issues. You're checking in, not only with the children, but you're also checking in with the staff. You're checking in with parents," Principal Vivan Bueno told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

"I feel proud because almost all of my students are here," one teacher told her class.


Social emotional learning was already important at the school, but the pandemic made it even more of a priority.

Friday, Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter got to experience firsthand how it's integrated into the curriculum as the Department of Education plans on adding more students in person starting next month.

"Folks have been disconnected socially, removed from schools, isolated, and so ensuring that we have mental health services and supports in place is going to be critical," Porter said.

The emotional toll of this pandemic can't be understated. One out of 10 people in the Concourse/Highbridge section has been diagnosed with COVID, and at one point, the unemployment rate in the Bronx topped 20%.

"If we want to address learning loss, learning gap and all of the language connected to that, we first have to address the hearts and minds of our young people and our educators that are coming back into buildings," Porter said.

That includes hiring 150 social workers and adding community schools to neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID, along with creating a summer school program that provides more support.

Bueno says students learning remotely need more social emotional supports when compared to those in person. Those services are provided virtually.

"We don't know what the fallout of this pandemic is going to be. We're in it," Bueno said.

School leaders are navigating uncharted territory after an unimaginable year, establishing a healthy foundation to make up for lost time.

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