Project Safe and Sound
District State: Washington
District Website: steilacoom.k12.wa.us
Challenge: The Steilacoom district serves a high percentage of military families from neighboring Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Washington state law, meanwhile, requires that districts establish a safe-school plan to respond to the emotional and behavioral distress of students. Though Steilacoom initiated such a plan, it lacked a comprehensive system to treat students in distress.
Initiative: Steilacoom’s educators are now developing a three-tiered intervention system. “A specific focus on resiliency promotes student mental health and well-being, which impacts both readiness to learn and the ability to benefit from learning opportunities,” says Mary Snyder, a social-emotional learning specialist. Saltar’s Point Elementary, for example, created a multisensory space called Otter Zone, in which students receive scheduled support with brain breaks, and participate in individualized, directed teaching with self-regulation strategies and small-group instruction.
Impact: Students have accessed the Otter Zone for over 200 hours since 2017. Student discipline referrals at Saltar’s Point Elementary have decreased by 70%. In a survey, 85% of students there said they had at least one adult at school to whom they go with a problem.
Advice: Along with robust professional development in social-emotional learning, Steilacoom’s educators use data to inform decisions and collaborate with local thought leaders to develop innovative strategies that address student needs. “Our advice would be to develop systems of support that address the needs you see emerging in your district,” Snyder says.