Belding school board hears success stories, high school handbook changes


By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 12:19 pm on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

From left, Landon Neal, 12, Cole Shoup, 12, and Ty McDiarmid, 11, presented their report on the Amazon rainforest to the Belding AreaSChoolsBoard of Education during Monday’s meeting. Students in Diane Kuhn’ssixth gradegeography class were tasked with creating an organization designed to educate others about the Amazon rainforest, its ecosystems and the dangers deforestation poses. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

BELDING — There are some exciting things happening at Ellis Elementary School.

During Monday’s meeting of the Belding Area Schools Board of Education, Ellis Principal Tiffany Jackson shared some success stories.

Jackson talked about trauma-informed instruction, which has recently been a commonly discussed topic at local school districts.

Two Ellis teachers were trained by John Micsak, a child resiliency and trauma-informed care expert, and will pass on what they learned to other members of the staff. Jackson said the teachers are working to set goals for student relationships.

“One of the goals is to build relationships with students closer than just being a classroom teacher,” she said. “We look at really who the students are attached to in the building; maybe not just their general classroom teacher, but maybe it’s the gym teacher or the music teacher …”

Jackson said the teachers are planning to form attachment teams for students working through trauma in their lives. The goal of the attachment teams are for students to have someone they trust to talk to about any concerns or issues.

Another future goal is for the school to be able to have what Jackson referred to as a wellness place for all students to access. She said the school’s social worker is currently only able to see students with an individualized education plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan, which are plans to ensure accommodations in school for students with disabilities.

“We’d like there to be a place all students can access in case they’re dealing with something from the weekend or the morning of or those kinds of things,” Jackson said. “We’ve recognized several of our students are dealing with trauma and we want to prepare them and give them some strategies that they might need to avoid that fight or flight (response).”

Jackson said the attachment teams are also set to help students work through and deal with their emotions instead of letting them boil over and cause outbursts.

Out of that training came a partnership between Ellis and the Right Door for Hope, Recovery and Wellness in Ionia. The organization collaborated with the school to host a wellness night in March. The purpose of the night was to reach families the school doesn’t always reach to offer them resources and support. Jackson said some of the topics covered during the evening were bedtime routines, bedtime hygiene and even some help with housing resources.

“We had a great time with families that don’t normally attend our family activity nights,” she said. “They came to access the resources we had to offer there from the Right Door.”

The staff at Ellis are also wearing new lanyards as part of trauma informed care that features strategies for calming children down.

UPDATED HANDBOOKS AT THE HIGH SCHOOL 

Belding High School Principal Michael Ostrander tells the school board about revisions to the handbook and graduation requirements during Monday’s meeting. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

The school board also approved a measure to update language in the high school handbooks pertaining to graduation requirements.

The classes that students have to take to graduate high school are prescribed by the state, but school districts can further customize the plans at their pleasure.

Principal Michael Ostrander mentioned science as one example. According to him, the state requires students to take biology to graduate. The handbook for Belding High School required students to take biology, chemistry and physics.

Ostrander said the problem with that is the idea that students who might be interested in taking other science classes, such as advanced placement biology or anatomy and physiology are potentially missing out on opportunities to pursue their interests.

“We want to make sure we’re not pushing all students in one direction,” he said.

The board unanimously approved the handbook revisions. Ostrander said there will likely be other revisions to vote on, but this issue seemed particularly “time sensitive” as students will begin scheduling classes for next year in coming weeks.

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