Alexandria schools introducing daily social-emotional learning for all students

School districts are still trying to find ways to help kids catch up both academically and socially as many students spent the pandemic learning from home.

In Alexandria, they're taking an approach called Social Emotional Academic Learning, or SEAL.

The district has seen a few violent incidents among students spill out into the community in the past few months. Officials say those incidents are examples of kids getting re-acclimated into social and school environments.

Alexandria has had programming like SEAL for the better part of the past decade. But as part of a safety plan communicated to parents before the school year began, 30 minutes of SEAL curriculum will now be integrated into every single grade every day.

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The principal of George Washington Middle School says the need is great, especially after last year.

"It became clear that our students were having problems with their emotions, specifically regulating their emotions during stressful times," said Dr. Jesse Mazur. "There was a need, we saw, in terms of support for communication, respectful communication, problem-solving."

FOX 5 heard from a SEAL teacher who says this is a work in progress, and that it takes time to build a community, but that's the goal.

The exercise FOX 5 observed on Wednesday had students in a circle, one-by-one answering questions that gave classmates insight into their perspective, how their day was going, how they were feeling and so on.

We talked to 7th grader Harper Kamens after the lesson to see what she got out of it.

"I think it’s definitely important because sometimes people just choose one kind of people that they’re going to hang out with, but then these circles just kind of bring everyone in," Kamens says. "And you can discover people that you might have a lot in common with and might want to talk to."

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This is one component of a school safety plan introduced about a month ago that includes things like staggered dismissals, school resource officers, a requirement to have ID, among other things.

It's all part of an attempt to create more structure for students and reinforce positive behaviors within that structure.