Addressing the social and emotional needs of students after quarantine is a must.
With much uncertainty about how schools will look this fall, Kim Love, Hillel Day School’s director of student services, is focusing her attention on the social and emotional needs of all her students, especially those with disabilities.
Love has been engaged with two groups and their outreach surrounding education, especially related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on students’ mental health.
Before assuming her role as the director of student services last year, Love served as one of Hillel’s full–time social workers for three years. In her new position, Love oversees all of Hillel’s support services, including learning specialists and social workers. She said she makes sure “all students’ learning needs, as well as social, emotional and behavioral needs, are met within the school.”
Due to the pandemic, Love had to modify and expand how Hillel’s students received learning support this spring.
“All of our students who needed help, got the help they needed remotely,” Love said. “We continued servicing the students who were receiving services prior to COVID, but we also did crisis intervention and offered services to students that required extra support during quarantine that may not have been receiving support when we were in school.”
Love has been selected as a 2020-2021 Member at Large for the Michigan Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), which advises both the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) Office of Special Education and the State Board of Education (SBE) on how to provide positive outcomes for all Michigan students with disabilities. Her three-year term will begin in September.
The state committee is composed of delegates from across the state of Michigan who each represent a different educational organization, such as the Michigan Speech and Hearing Organization, throughout the state or a member at large, who does not currently represent a specific organization. According to Love, 51% of the committee is also made up of either parents of students with disabilities or people with disabilities themselves. There are 33 representatives and Love is the only member from the Jewish community.
“As members, we meet monthly and our activities or conversations during that meeting depend on what the needs are at any given time in the year,” Love said. “For example, we sometimes work on proposed policies and leave our suggestions before they appear in the state legislation. We also identify unmet needs in the state and help advise the MDE and the SBE on best practices of how to go about making sure that these things are put in place so the students of our state are getting what they need to be successful in school and beyond.”
Previously, Love served on the committee as a delegate representing the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, which is the organization for all charter schools throughout Michigan. That term was from 2013-2016.
“I think what is really unique about being a member at large is that I am a voice for independent schools, because I do work at a Jewish day school, but also because I think Jewish people are underrepresented in our state agencies,” Love said. “I get to bring that diversity to the panel but also advocate for the needs of our specific community and students with disabilities within our specific community. That was something that was not there the few years ago when I previously served.”
Although Love hasn’t had the opportunity to attend a SEAC meeting yet – they’re on summer hiatus and will resume in September — she believes that with remote learning bringing new challenges for students with disabilities, there will be a strong focus in the first part of the year to address and develop policies on how to deliver special educational programs and services for students with disabilities throughout the state.
In addition to SEAC, Love has also been attending meetings for the Oakland Schools’ “Unpacking the Governor’s Back to School Plan- Mental and Social-Emotional Health Sections”, where she virtually meets with Oakland County leaders and other school administrators to focus on how mental health will play a large role in the upcoming school year.
“Aside from being a fierce advocate for students with disabilities, and especially Jewish students with disabilities, mental health is another huge passion of mine,” Love said. “One of my other social work colleagues, Barb Kenny, was joining this and we decided to do it together so we can really help our students at Hillel.”
She has currently attended two sessions and there is one more planned. Love is confident, however, that since they “are only scratching the surface,” Oakland County will extend the meetings throughout August.
The virtual meetings break off into work groups with approximately four others and focus on how schools throughout Oakland County are going to meet the social and emotional needs of students post-quarantine. They want to ensure that all of the different recommendations that Governor Whitmer has put out have realistic and effective activities or initiatives to fulfill those recommendations.
“The roadmap is broad. They recommend we destigmatize COVID and that we screen our students for mental health needs, but it doesn’t say how we should do that,” Love said. “That is what is so wonderful about partaking in these meetings because we are sharing with other educators ‘the how’ so we can make the best plan possible for Hillel to address the social, emotional needs of our students when we return to school.”