New School Webpage Aims to Connect Families to School, Resources | Education
The coronavirus pandemic and its fallout have prompted a multitude of questions.
Angie Wanigman and the rest of the Litchfield Public School Board staff wanted to provide as many answers as possible.
This is how the school district’s COVID 19 support services website was born.
“We know this is an overwhelming time,” said Wanigman, a counselor at Litchfield Middle School. “There is stress… a change in everyone’s lifestyle right now. So we created a page that would help support families in the neighborhood. “
Wanningman said the idea for the site, accessible through the school district’s home page, came from college principal Chelsea Brown. During a conference call with administrators from other school districts around the state, socio-emotional learning during the period of social distancing was brought up.
As Wanningman discussed the concerns with Brown, high school counselors Laura Nelson and Jolene Mueller, and district social worker Tammy Minton, the group saw an opportunity to connect with students and parents in the district via a web page. .
“We didn’t want to have a site just to have a site,” she said. “We wanted it to be useful, meaningful and not just something they can look up on a Google search. We wanted to adapt it to the needs of our families.
They turned to the district parent survey to find common themes. From there, Wanningman said, she gathered ideas from Minton, a longtime resident of the district, and school nurse Lorie Garland on the types of local resources that could be included on the site, and that would be specific to residents of the Litchfield area.
“You know, that was great for us because we have a community that has so many resources locally,” Wanningman said. “I don’t know if other communities can say that. It was great to showcase our community and what we offer.
Those efforts turned into a site that generated interest at the state level, with Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker asking for additional information on its creation that could be shared with other districts.
“I was quite surprised, but very honored,” Wanigman said. “It was very exciting.”
Superintendent Beckie Simenson agreed, stating that “IIt really is a big deal that we are recognized for this distance learning initiative. “
As much as she appreciates the recognition, however, Wanigman said the key is for the site to meet the needs of parents and students in the district. And perhaps most important is the connectivity the site can create in an age when it is easy to feel disconnected.
“What is tricky this time is that with the order to stay home, it is difficult for our students not to be able to go out and follow normal routines.
“For college kids… in general, the connection, feeling a sense of belonging and connecting with people” is important, she said. “Those tangible experiences (of being in school) of a high-five, of saying hello, just smiling… they miss those things. Video chats are great, but they’re not the same either.
In addition to links to resources, the site includes a “Soothing Virtual Space,” which shares links to stress relief tools such as videos on relaxation, meditation and movement, as well as puzzles, games and coloring pages.
Wanningman said she was happy with the site – which she said could evolve and continue to be used even after the pandemic has passed – and happy with how the community can come together to help students.
“I know our students are resilient, they are strong kids,” she said. “They’ll be okay for sure. “