Effective social and emotional learning doesn’t happen “only at certain times of the day or with certain people,” it should be reflected in all school operations and practices, said Olga Acosta Price, director of the national Center for Health and Health Care in Schools. With disruptions from the pandemic so widespread, that kind of approach is needed “now more than ever,” she said.

On a windy December morning in rural southwest Michigan, an American flag flapped at half-staff outside Paw Paw Early Elementary School. A social worker with a miniature therapy dog named Trixie offered comfort at the entry doors, reports the AP.

Children wearing face masks scampered off buses into the morning chill, some stooping to pet the shaggy pup before ambling inside.

Like kids in so many cities and towns around the globe, the youngsters in Michigan’s Van Buren Intermediate School District have been through a lot these past few years. A relentless pandemic that continues to disrupt classrooms, sicken friends and loved ones, and has left some district families jobless and homeless. Three student suicide attempts since in-person school resumed full-time this fall, two student suicides last year. And now, a deadly shooting just two days earlier at a school a few hours away.

But with an infusion of federal COVID relief money and state funding this year plus a belief among local school officials that kids can’t succeed academically if they are struggling emotionally, every child in this district’s 11 schools is receiving extra help.

In a school year that was supposed to be a return to normal but has proven anything but, the district has launched an educational program based on a key component of modern psychology — cognitive behavior therapy. Principles of this method are embedded in the curriculum and are part of the district’s full embrace of social and emotional learning.

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