Chicago Public Schools announces 'healing-centered' plan to address trauma

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Monday morning Chicago Public Schools announced a multi-year partnership to create a "healing-centered framework" multi-year plan to address trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press conference, CPS officials acknowledged the trauma school-aged children have experienced over the last year, and said the new framework will help them cope.

RELATED: COVID-19 pandemic causes mental health concerns, educational inequity among students

Beyond just the COVID pandemic, in the past 12 months Chicago's students have also had to confront gun violence and civil unrest, as well as economic instability and insecurity. These myriad challenges outside the classroom can often impede learning inside.

"At its core, trauma is an equity issue," said CPS CEO Janice Jackson. "We've seen throughout this pandemic how students who live in our underrepresented communities have been disproportionately impacted, not only by this terrible disease, COVID-19, but the impact of closures, lack of resources, etc."

RELATED: CPS, school districts make plans to combat learning loss caused by COVID pandemic

Calling it a "healing-centered vision," designed with both students and staff in mind, the framework was built taking into account feedback from hundreds of teachers, parents and students, some of whom spoke about their needs Monday morning, starting at a very basic level.

"To me, healing is about being surrounded by the people who care and love me," said Cheyanne Ligutan, Lake Tech High School student.

RELATED: CPS 6th through 8th grade students return to in-person learning

The plan is being done in partnership with Chicago Beyond and the Children First Fund, and funded by a $24 million investment over the next three years.

The plan outlines five steps, including an evaluation into whether the existing physical environment inside each and every school promotes that very wellness and belonging.

RELATED: CPS sets date for high school students to return to classrooms

"Holistic healing is as much about the culture and climate of a school, it's about investing in the support to empower and strengthen our children, and the adults that serve them," said Liz Dozier of Chicago Beyond.

CPS said through this framework it is committing to, in the next three years: Expanding behavior health teams to all CPS schools with targeted support to reach students most affected; having at least one staff member in every building trained in group intervention to support students coping with trauma, anger and depression, among other mental health needs; expanding the number of schools with at least one community partner to provide support for social-emotional learning or mental health; curating professional development opportunities for staff; developing resources for families and caregivers; building a comprehensive set of resources for staff wellness; and establishing a network of community partners to support each school's needs.

RELATED: Some CPS high schools report nearly half of students absent during remote learning

The steps spoken about Monday represent a five-year vision for the district, which also committed to reevaluating the way CPS supports students and staff following traumatic events.
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