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COVID-19 Quick View: Remote/Hybrid Learning Guidance & Resources

Launching Community Circles To Better Support Students

Quarterly family phone calls to surface needs

Overview

Cedar Rapids Community School District’s response to the pandemic focused heavily on social emotional learning and the overall wellness of students. As the district was preparing for a return to classrooms in the fall of 2020, a massive windstorm tore through the town, damaging all of the school buildings and many of community members’ homes. This traumatic experience reinforced the need for a new social emotional learning curriculum and strategies.

"So the idea was that in K-12 we would set aside time, usually at the beginning of every day, for a community circle, a grounding check in. Our community started about four weeks later than the typical school year because we had a storm that damaged all of our buildings. Our low income homes were the most damaged by the windstorm because they had the lowest quality construction and terrible things happened there. We were down six hundred students as a system and kids were missing who we didn’t know where they were. We were trying to make sure that people were fed and their needs were met. This big focus on social emotional learning, helping students interact, and being able to work with their peers, work with their teachers, and express their emotions and needs in a safe space was critical, so we launched a new social emotional curriculum." - John Rice, Executive Director, Teaching and Learning at Cedar Rapids Community School District

Approach

The district launched a K-8 social emotional learning curriculum using CASEL’s Caring School Community. The plan focused on Community Circles, a sacred time held each morning for all students in K-8. The district provided supporting materials and guidance for teachers to lead these circles each day. While the curriculum was only for grades K-8, the high schools in the district utilized the community circle time during their advisory hour.

The impact of the strategies was clear: the district saw the fewest behavioral issues in years and decreased suspension rates for black students and students with IEPs – groups that had disproportionate suspension rates in the past – were reduced.


This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.


Strategy Resources


Dimensions of Identity Circle at Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids Community School District implemented “Community Circles” as part of its social-emotional learning curriculum... Learn More

Circle Prompts at Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids Community School District implemented “Community Circles” as part of its social-emotional learning curriculum... Learn More

Getting Started with Circles at Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids Community School District implemented “Community Circles” as part of its social-emotional learning curriculum... Learn More

Troubleshooting Common Barriers in Circles at Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids Community School District implemented “Community Circles” as part of its social-emotional learning curriculum... Learn More