A new school year

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Welcome back, and I hope you have had a good start to the school year!

Seeing the construction of Muldown Elementary School exemplifies the vision and community involvement that has brought us to where we are today. It will create an amazing new learning environment for our students when the doors open in August 2020. As we work through the construction, we appreciate everyone’s patience.

We are particularly grateful for the help that Muldown parents are giving us by following the new traffic flow changes. It will really help limit congestion and keep our students safe at the busy drop-off and pick-up times.

Implementation of our new Social and Emotional Learning curriculum is a top priority for the new school year. Last year we focused our energy on the safety and security of our students. One aspect that came out of our research is that ensuring a welcoming, caring, and inviting learning environment in our schools is probably the most important thing we can do for our students.

This curriculum will create very clear learning opportunities for our students in order to help build empathy skills and offer strategies to get along together and thrive with one another. In our fast-paced, modern, world, even our youngest kids don’t have the same interpersonal skills that used to occur more naturally. We find ourselves in a space where we need to help our students more directly in this area than we have had to in the past.

Teaching our students these specific skills will be aligned across the schools. While we have always taught these skills in one form or another, we are taking steps to be even more specific in this area of education and helping to create good citizens. We will build the foundation for these skills starting in elementary school with a program called “Getting Along Together.” Digital Citizenship training will be a focus with our older students.

Social media continues to be a tremendous challenge for young people. Kids feel a lot of pressure and have misperceptions about what is really happening in people’s lives. Sometimes kids (and even adults) can get this sense that everyone else’s life is perfect because that is what people often post on social media — the perfect life. But the reality is that we are all struggling in some area or another. We are all learning.

We live in an uncertain world that can be confusing for children. Watching adults being respectful to one another, being open to different points of view no matter what they might be, and treating each other with dignity regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, can greatly help our children.

I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at the Back to School Bash on Thursday, Sept. 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Smith Soccer Fields. The Whitefish Education Foundation and our Family Involvement Team (the new PTA!) have brought back this popular event for parents and students to mingle, learn about activities, and meet local non-profits focused on education.

Heather Davis Schmidt is the Superintendent of the Whitefish School District.

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