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La Jolla Cluster Association: Schools proceed with Social Emotional Learning projects

At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, the La Jolla Cluster Association decided to focus on “social intelligence,” a style of social emotional learning intended give students the chance to develop their social consciences and understand emotional wellbeing for themselves and others. At the March 14 meeting at Muirlands Middle School, representatives from three schools provided an update their efforts.

The Cluster Association is comprised of parents, teachers and principals from La Jolla’s five public schools — Bird Rock Elementary, La Jolla Elementary, Torrey Pines Elementary, Muirlands Middle and La Jolla High.

Bird Rock Elementary: “We did a parent survey to find out the areas of interests and priorities for parents and teachers. Social Emotional Learning ranked No. 4 for teachers and No. 9 for parents,” explained parent Katie Zanoni. “That tells us we need to communicate what Social Emotional Learning is for the parent community. What we’re putting forth is a survey to teachers to pull out what they’re looking for in terms of resources and support — and ways to bolster Social Emotional Learning.”

She added: “We’re working to coordinate efforts between parent groups and counselors, and I hear there is a meeting scheduled for early April between the counselors and the principals.”

Muirlands Middle: Principal Geof Martin said he was communicating with We End Violence director Jeff Bucholtz to explore programming developed for middle-school aged students. We End Violence is aimed at prevention and response through age-appropriate workshops.

“This programming is oriented to students doing the work — playing a game, gathering information, etc. — in small teams. It’s not a workshop where children just sit and listen to a presentation,” Martin said. “We’re exploring options for how to go forward with this. (Bucholtz) has given us proposals to work with our teachers, so they can get a sense of what it is, and do some training. There may also be a night when parents can come and listen to the work he’s doing to better understand the message.”

Muirlands is also working to create programming with Natural High, a drug prevention non-profit; Unlocking the Genius, a San Diego Unified School District program that provides a digital portfolio archiving student strengths, experiences and connecting students to local opportunities to develop their interests; and Project Wisdom, a collection of character-building exercises and recourses.

“We are looking at how to address Social Emotional Learning on a systemic level across the school,” Martin said.

La Jolla High: Teacher Kerry Dill said following a Health & Wellness Fair held on campus, the school is planning to hold another, but in varied sessions. “In response to student feedback on the mental health fair, we’re working on splitting the fair up into three lunchtime activities on the topics of General Mental Health Awareness, Nutrition & Exercise, and Stress & Coping,” she said. “The students said it was all too much in one day and wasn’t as useful as it could have been.”

Dill also plans to move the fair from May to April to avoid disrupting AP testing, but keeping it close to test time so students can best use the wellness exercises. Another component, she added, “is getting our outreach information updated so we can create a one-stop shop on our website with update links and topics (related to social emotional health). We have our team working on that right now.”

In other Cluster news

School start time update: Parent Sharon Miller said there is still forward momentum toward establishing a later start time (also referred to as a “healthy start time”) at La Jolla High School and Muirlands Middle School. “It is not dead in the water,” she said. “The latest is that the head of transportation at San Diego Unified School District has reviewed our scenarios with the staff, and now it’s up to District Superintendent Cindy Marten, who is meant to look at it in April. We’ll have a decision soon after. Hopefully, we’ll hear good news.”

The Cluster Association has been advocating for a later start time for years. Most recently, La Jolla High and Muirlands Middle School drafted a pilot program to start the school day at 8:30 a.m. next year (an hour later than this year).

However, it was determined by the governing San Diego School District departments that the proposal was not “cost neutral,” and could not be approved as submitted. As a result, Cluster members are negotiating the terms.

La Jolla Cluster Association next meets 4:45 p.m. Thursday, April 18 at Muirlands Middle School, 1056 Nautilus St. lajollacluster.com