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Elementary Schools Begin New Caring School Community Program

Klopstein Kindergarten Class 2023

Flynn Park Kindergarten students in Melissa Klopstein’s classroom used their morning circle time to interview Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley as part of the District’s new Caring School Community curriculum in grades K-5. The curricular resources help build social-emotional competencies and activities that enhance school culture.

Restorative practices have long been a valued part of the District’s social-emotional approach to building authentic relationships in classrooms and schools that empower learning. There is an art to building these healthy learning environments – especially when it comes to young children.

In June, The School District of University City Board of Education approved a new curricular resource called Caring School Community to be implemented in all elementary schools by the end of the next school year. Developed by the Center for Collaborative Schools, the resource presents a blueprint for developing a community culture of caring, inclusion and teamwork among younger students and school staff. 

The program is currently underway in all kindergarten classrooms. Barbara C. Jordan Elementary School is further piloting the program in grades 1-5. Other schools are currently implementing the program in select grade levels.

“The program is designed to teach students what it means to be a school community,” said Christina Grove, coordinator, cultural and linguistic responsiveness (CLR). “It helps them learn, how do we to talk to people in class? How do we conduct ourselves in an assembly? How do we engage with a substitute teacher? How do we handle teasing and bullying in a school space? How do we handle people who are alike to us and who are different? How do we welcome new students?
“We really want them to learn how to build a culture of gratitude, creativity and happiness dealing with things that are alike and different.” 

Grove noted that circle time via a daily morning meeting is an essential part of the school day, and the new curriculum builds in 15-20 minutes a day for this practice in all grade levels. Grove said the curriculum helps make the circles more consistent. Teachers and leaders are further excited to build a “buddy system” as part of the program. Students in higher grade levels will be assigned a buddy in the younger grades and will mentor them through the school, Grove said.