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LEARNING TO MANAGE EMOTIONS

Sioux City Schools tracking the social and emotional needs of students

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SIOUX CITY -- COVID-19 has had a major impact on students' mental health and the Sioux City Community School District is continuing its innovative approach to help kids as they return to the classroom.

The district uses a three-tier approach which tracks the social skills and emotional awareness of the students, said Dora Jung, director of student services and equity education.

There are certain times in the day when this is implemented. At the elementary level, there are morning meetings. It's less regimented in the upper grades.

"Kindergarten, first grade and second grade students are just learning what socialization looks like and how to manage their emotions," Jung said. "So, we reserve that part of the day where we talk about how to manage our anger and how to make friends."

As kids progress from elementary to middle and high school, the system keep tabs on social and emotional development.

"Teachers continue to enter data on each child," Jung said. "That data is reviewed on a weekly basis or more, when needed."

If a child isn't progressing at a recommended rate, a school may bring in a behavior coach for another level of more individualized assistance.

This second tier of intervention can be modified to fit the child's needs.

"Based upon data from teachers, families and peers, students can move up or down from tier one to tier two," Jung said. 

If a child goes through all of the steps of intervention, modification and monitoring, he may require more intense or tier three services, such as therapy.

"As a district, we recognize that families may not want to use additional services like therapy because of cultural views," Jung said. "This is why we continue to stay in connection with families, working with them to best accommodate their needs."

Jung said if a family can't afford therapy for a child, the district will work to ensure the students gets the services he needed, regardless of cost.

"I encourage families to reach out to us if they see a change in their child's behavior," she said. "If a talkative child suddenly becomes quiet, there may be a problem. If a quiet child begins lashing out, there may also be a problem."

Jung added that a child's school behavior doesn't always mirror his home behavior.

"A student can't perform well in school when they're struggling with their feelings and emotions," she said. "The overall well being of our students is so important. We want them to be happy and ready to learn."  

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