Back Together! artwork

A piece of artwork that an anonymous student created through CHAC's Back Together program. The Back Together program is one aspect of LASD's focus on mental health services for students. 

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees at their Nov. 1 meeting addressed the importance of students’ mental health and how to best support them amid the upheaval of the past 18 months.

Jennifer Keicher, LASD director of special education, and Erin Green, director of student and staff services, are monitoring how students have fared as they transitioned from remote learning back to the classroom.

Referencing risk assessments, Keicher noted an increase during the pandemic in students requiring daily or biweekly check-ins.

“We knew this was coming,” she said. “We knew that coming back to campus would not be easy, and a lot of families have gone through a lot of trauma as well. So, we did a lot of things to prepare for this.”

Steps LASD has taken to ease students’ path back to campus include offering support through academic counselors at the junior highs, a school psychologist, “behavioral technicians” and a family engagement facilitator.

The district also partnered with the Mountain View-based nonprofit Community Health Awareness Council to introduce the multi-week Back Together Arts Learning Program, which brought CHAC therapists and interns to campuses to engage with students.

Back Together prioritized students’ mental health and well-being, focusing on prevention; addressed COVID anxiety; and supported the transition back to on-campus learning. The program adopted a different focus each week, for example, watercolors, movement from air to paper and exploration using music.

According to Carol Mellberg, CHAC’s director of special programs, a significant number of students participated.

“All the CHAC therapists were on LASD campuses,” Mellberg told trustees at the meeting. “They were in the classrooms, and they got to meet 30 kids, 60 kids, 90 kids and teachers. This is the most integrated CHAC has been with LASD.”

One student testified that they loved the experience with CHAC, that it was the highlight of their week and boosted their self-confidence. Another student said they really liked Back Together because it provided freedom and gave the brain a break.

As a result of the program’s success, CHAC plans to discuss future collaboration with LASD, including another season of Back Together and emphasis on teacher-led activities, and may launch a high school version.

BCS expenditure update

Bullis Charter School provided a written report documenting how it spent its share of 2016’s Measure GG parcel-tax funds last year, an annual requirement.

Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services, said the report reveals that BCS’ share of the proceeds went toward teacher salaries.

Trustee Vladimir Ivanovic questioned the report, noting he found it “puzzling,” because when he submitted a California Public Records Act request for BCS teacher salaries a while back, he was told BCS did not have the information.

“I don’t understand how they could come up with the data that comes with this report if they did not know what the salaries of their teachers were,” Ivanovic said. “This report also has as little information as possible about the use of these funds that is consistent with the law. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

Board president Vaishali Sirkay and trustee Jessica Speiser emphasized that BCS’ report meets all the requirements. However, Superintendent Jeff Baier and Kenyon plan to review the report in greater depth.

By

Staff Writer

Angela Tam covers local schools as the Town Crier's education reporter.