Garland ISD is standing apart together and is #GISDAlwaysConnected. We have been working to support our students, employees and families throughout this challenging time. GISD put together an at-home eLearning platform to support distance learning, and kept our GISD families updated with coronavirus information and resources on our website. Each department involved in health and wellness pivoted to support our GISD staff and families while schools are closed.
Employee Wellness decided to focus on increasing online presence by continuing current online programs and transitioning in person initiatives virtually. This has been a smooth transition as we were already promoting health and updates through social media and blog posts
Guidance and Counseling is focused on sharing information in new ways to accommodate families during this time. We have updated our website to include more resources and reaching people through virtual platforms including YouTube, Google Meet, Google Voice , and more. Everyone is learning new skills in this ever-changing world. These tools will continue to be valuable even when we’re back to “normal.”
Health Services’ primary focus has been on personally connecting with families. Information is coming in from all sorts of sources, and families with medically fragile children need assurances that they are doing all they can do to keep everyone safe. The use of virtual media has been vital to keep our families updated on the latest resources and information.
Student Nutrition Services is hard at work serving the children of our community. We have served 104,442 breakfasts and 176,032 lunches as of April 13, 2020 (they are up to over 300K meals now). We are currently serving meals Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 33 school sites.
Physical Education is providing physical activities that students and their families could do together or individually. All PE teachers have their own PE classrooms via Google Classroom. They realized early on that less is more; therefore, the activities are not graded and are an addition to classroom work. The feedback has been very positive. Some use Google Meets and Flipgrid videos that allow teachers to check in on students, say hi, see how they and their families are doing, etc.
Employee Wellness has been sharing a blog post and a related social media post each day. This has been functioning well since a new topic can be the focus of the day and shared with employees through employee memos. Continuing our online programs and transitioning others online has gone smoothly. Additionally, a sleep management webinar took place and was successful. We have been able to continue working with dietetic and health studies interns virtually.
School counselors are meeting with families on a daily basis and providing virtual counseling, college, career and military readiness information, scheduling, and community resources to families. They have an online request for services, and counselors respond within 48 hours to anybody who makes a request. The Responsive Services counselors are creating mental health-related presentations for elementary and secondary students and for parents that are presented each week during Wellness Wednesdays.
Health Services is providing support to the local health department to aid in contact tracing. This is helping them keep up with tracing demands. District telehealth services are offered to some of our students as an option to their medical care.
The new format of serving meals three times per week versus twice daily seems to be working well. It has assisted in eliminating extra contact for both staff and families.
There has been an explosion of at-home learning lessons/activities from physical educators across the nation. Teachers have shared and borrowed ideas from one another. Activities that require little to no equipment is best practice. Asking students for ideas has been an incredible resource. Plus, the students love sending in videos teaching an activity that they created! PE teachers have a weekly meeting just to brainstorm, collaborate, share information with each other.
What isn’t working:
Employee Wellness has cancelled activities that would no longer work such as health screenings and in-person activities. Counselors are having a difficult time reaching families when contact information changes. Nurses are unable to perform follow-up health screenings for vision, hearing and spinal abnormalities. Student Nutrition Services has adapted, but it is challenging for staff to pack so many meals together at one time and sourcing packaging has also been an issue. However, they have been able to work through it.
What is hopeful or discouraging:
All departments in GISD have come together to ensure the learning, emotional and physical health needs of families, staff, and students are being met.
Family and Community Engagement has been hosting weekly Facebook Live videos for GISD families, and Employee Wellness, Health Services, and Physical Education worked with them to make a video on maintaining health and wellness at home.
Positive feedback and gratitude from employees for the information provided and interactions on social media has been wonderful! Technological difficulties such as having videos upload correctly can be discouraging; however, the finished product is rewarding. Working with interns virtually and seeing them collaborate and come together to learn how to communicate health and wellness messaging during a pandemic has been rewarding.
Guidance and Counseling is hopeful. They came together to share a video showcasing how we are coping during this time. More people are logging in to counseling Google Meets sessions. In five weeks, they have met virtually with over 12,800 individual students and parents and more than 3,700 staff. Each week the Guidance and Counseling holds Money Mondays where colleges and military personnel provide information for families. On Wellness Wednesdays, Responsive Services mental health professionals work with school counselors to present information to students and families including everything from coping and grief to signs of abuse. The team also offers SEL Fridays that focus on social emotional learning for families.
Student Nutrition Services has received numerous comments and thank yous from the community. All of the positivity has fueled staff for the purpose of feeding our children. Families are truly grateful for the service provided.
We don’t have 100% of the student body engaged in our virtual classrooms. We knew that this was a strong possibility when eLearning first started. These numbers are increasing slowly each day. Students who are unable to participate online receive packets to work on at home and talk with teachers via phone conversations, but the socialization piece is missing. For those of us that have done this for a long time and for those that haven’t, it is deep-seated in our nature to crave an environment that allows us to physically teach our subject. We instinctively model our lessons and participate with our students as they participate. Not being able to do this has been one of the biggest adjustments in our world.
We are learning that this is a stressful time for everyone, but by working together and supporting our GISD family, we can get through this together. Pivoting our communications and services to address the current state of the world has been a learning process, but we are meeting people where they are and helping them support their physical and mental health and wellness.
When you want to transform your health,
you have to do it for your self,
but not by yourself.
Healthy change can be hard. But it’s not impossible.
We’re here to help you through it. Every step of the way.