Cranbrook Schools lock down the “secret sauce” to balancing students’ physical health and emotional well-being as they return to face-to-face learning

By Korie Wilkins

When Cranbrook Schools officials started talking about a return to face-to-face learning this fall, student health and wellness was at the forefront of the plan.

And Aimeclaire Roche, director of Cranbrook Schools, knew that if parents and staff were confident and calm – students would be as well. The cornerstone of the plan? Holistic support for families, from biweekly webinars for parents, frequent check-ins with students from support staff and an open communication policy – in addition to face coverings, hygiene and sanitation.

“Kids pick up on the cues from the adults around them and, in this case, those adults are parents and teachers,” she said.

By all accounts, Cranbrook has found the “secret sauce” on balancing physical health and emotional well-being during the pandemic. Roche said more than 90% of families returned to learning in the fall, with a handful learning virtually.

It’s going swimmingly, Roche said, with students of all ages thrilled to be back in the classroom.

AC Roche-Director of Cranbrook Schools
Aimeclaire Roche-Director of Cranbrook Schools

“This whole situation revealed to us that school is really important to children,” she said. “It is their place. It is their home.”

Families have been cooperative with the measures Cranbrook has instituted, like daily health check-ins via text message, social distancing on campus and the wearing of face coverings. Each student also has his or her temperature taken on campus in the morning.

Students and staff were also tested for COVID-19 prior to the start of school, and Roche said a few individuals tested positive and were treated.

“That certainly helped us launch face-to-face learning successfully,” she said.

Staff have reiterated to students that daily health checks and good hygiene are just a way of life, much like brushing one’s teeth, Roche said.

Like many schools, Cranbrook had to make the decision on whether student athletes would return to competition. After careful consideration, Roche said high school athletes are competing because it is crucial to mental health.

Student athletes are tested weekly and it’s been going well.

“We were one of the last schools to go back into competition mode,” she said. “But it’s been going well. It takes time and resources but we are embracing it.

“The students needed a goal. That’s why they compete.”

Cranbrook Schools

To address the mental health of all students in these uncertain times, Roche said Cranbrook is adding “touch points” into the schedule, where advisors or homeroom teachers make an effort to connect with students once a week – at least.

“It’s a moment of casual support, embedded in the day, to make sure students are OK. It is a crazy world we live in, and we want them to care about school and think about school,” Roche said. “We don’t want students to think they have to navigate this themselves.”

Cranbrook also has a Director of Wellness who works to lead its counseling and nursing team, combining mental and physical health aspects.

And they don’t forget parents, hosting bimonthly webinars to ensure parents have a place for support, information and conversation as well.

It’s that holistic support for families, Roche said, that sets Cranbrook apart as a world-renowned preparatory school.

“We are threads in the same tapestry,” said Roche.

Cranbrook Schools

39221 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

(248) 645-3000

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