Harrison School District received $24,500 from Kaiser Permanente as part of the insurance company’s Thriving Schools initiative. The school plans to use the funds to help launch the “Planning for the Next Normal at School” playbook. The playbook is intended to support schools and districts with actionable steps to prioritize health and well-being during the pandemic that has disrupted education for virtually all students across the United States.

“Kaiser Permanente is proud to provide this funding and support to districts across our state to help them meet the evolving academic and health needs of students, staff, and teachers,” said Mike Ramseier, president of Kaiser Permanente in Colorado.

Vasallo classroom

Students at Centennial Elementary School in Harrison School District 2 work on a mathematics problem in this November 2018 photo. D2 received a grant from Kaiser to help navigate education challenges during the pandemic. [Express photo/Regan Foster/file]

Kaiser’s playbook, created in collaboration with the nonprofit health plan and more than 30 nationally recognized and trusted school health organizations, includes six chapters that each include five actionable steps, called “Starter Plays” for schools and district leaders to improve health both in-person and in virtual school environments. The chapters in the playbook focus on mental health and well-being, COVID-19 prevention, social drivers of health such as institutional racism, food insecurity, access to health care, homelessness, financial security, physical activity, physical education, and health education, staff and teacher well-being and funding and family engagement.

“Harrison School District 2 is so honored to work with Kaiser Permanente to provide our students with the tools they need for resilience, mindfulness, and positivity. This is truly their number one concern during this pandemic and their support will make our work more robust,” said Dr. Wendy Birhanzel, superintendent of Harrison School District 2.

D2 will provide social-emotional teacher trainings to support teachers as the first line of connection with the students. The curriculum is a blend of mindfulness practice, emotional regulation skills, and positive psychology. The training will be provided by the Mindfulness and Positivity Project as part of an ongoing partnership with D2. “We plan to continue providing professional development for our staff and support them as they begin to implement mindfulness practices in their classes,” said Christine O’Brien, the D2 public information officer. “Students will also be supported in a Mindfulness Club, an online platform to help guide them in mindfulness activities and we hope to offer workshops again when we can meet in person.” 

Tackling technological troubles

Harrison School District 2 will launch a guide to help students and teachers in 2021.

The COVID-19 crisis has significantly impacted teachers in D2 on a number of levels. “The pandemic has definitely impacted teachers and staff who are trying to juggle teaching online and working so hard to have the same level of engagement with their students,” said O’Brien. “We know that teachers are also often navigating their own children who are learning online and helping their students who may not have parents who can stay home to assist them with eLearning. We want to acknowledge that our teachers and staff taking time to practice mindfulness and positivity can impact their own health and wellness in a positive manner while also modeling for students that self-care is valuable.”

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.