Brooklyn School Shares a COVID-19 Grief and Loss Resource Kit

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Few feel fully prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world. Indeed, as educators, we cannot ever fully prepare for the loss of a colleague, student, or family member.

Brooklyn LAB has been hit hard by the pandemic, and in the process of trying to make sense of how to support our school community, we greatly appreciated the insights and templates shared by our peer organizations and colleagues. It got us thinking about how we could share some of our experience with other education communities.

“During these most difficult moments, it’s important to have established norms and protocols regarding how to best communicate with and serve our school communities.” – Jonathan Flynn, Manager of Family Engagement and Community Affairs

We hope that no other school community finds themselves in the scenario of dealing with loss due to COVID-19, but because of our experience, our colleagues (with generous contributions from peer organizations) developed a COVID-19 Grief and Loss Resource Kit to help other schools navigate their own community loss.

“The impact of COVID-19 on our students, families, staff, and community members is harsh and unfair, often disproportionately so. We want to support your extended school communities during this time of anxiety, sadness, and grief.” – Greg Rodriguez, High School Director at Brooklyn LAB

“When a loved one is lost, we come together as a village. During social distancing, we can remain emotionally and mentally close through our virtual support: communicating our love and solidarity; listening to families and their wishes; sending care packages or meals; providing resources to cope with grief and trauma: and being a source of stability through the storm.” – Cecile Kidd, the Brooklyn LAB Bursar

The COVID-19 Grief and Loss Resource Kit includes the following documents to serve as guides for other school communities that can be adapted to suit their unique environments.

-Guidance on How to Handle the Loss of a Staff Member: Protocol for the communication of the loss of a staff member and appropriate resources to include

-Guidance on How to Handle the Loss of a Student or Parent/Primary Caregiver: Protocol for the communication of the loss of a student or parent/primary caregiver and appropriate resources to include

-Grief and Bereavement Resources: Resources for managing grief, counseling and therapy, self-care, and protecting mental health in the COVID-19 era

-How to Respond to the Loss of a Staff Member or Scholar (During Closure): A remote counseling support plan that identifies social workers and their availability, a universal contact number, and additional procedural guidance

-How to Respond to the Loss of a Scholar’s Family Member (During Closure): Remote counseling support plan that identifies standard procedures for the activation of social workers in the event of the loss of a scholar’s family member

-Letter to Families Communicating the Loss of a Staff Member: Template that includes reflections on the individual’s meaning to the community and information regarding funerals or other services

-Script for Informing Parents/Families of a COVID-19 Death in the School Community: A template for outreach via phone that includes condolences and information on support

-The Social Worker Support Call-Line Protocol: Guidance on how to set up a call line, how to approach and document calls, and resources for ongoing support

-Website Content Template: Information for your website that may help support your school community during this difficult time

-Letter to School Community: Template acknowledging grief and loss, expressing gratitude for commitment to students and families, and overviewing crisis response

Reflections

What we learned/big takeaway


The impact of COVID-19 on our students, families, staff, and community members is harsh and unfair, and often disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color. During COVID-19 closures, many school communities are experiencing anxiety, sadness and grief.

It can be extremely helpful to establish norm and protocols to fall back on regarding how to best communicate with and serve our school communities experiencing loss and grief.

When a loved one is lost, the “village” of support becomes even more important.

Social distancing, newly instituted hospital policies, and travel restrictions could make it difficult to say goodbye to a loved one who passes in isolation and to gather for memorial rites.

What we are still figuring out


How do we connect with students, caregivers, and educators through practices and responses that are informed and aware of trauma?

What are the best ways to respond to grief and loss in a manner that maximizes physical and psychological safety, facilitates the survival and recovery of students and families, and supports their ability to thrive?

What are the evidence-based, culturally responsive assessments and treatments for traumatic stress and associated mental health symptoms which might be most impactful in the COVID-19 era?

What can schools do to engage in remote efforts to strengthen the resilience and protective factors of students and families impacted by and vulnerable to trauma?

What I would tell other leaders during this time


In the coming days, each of us are likely to feel worried and unnerved as the experience of grief and loss become more widespread. In the face of this concern, we will find ways to support each other as friends and colleagues and find ways to show up for students and families.

Please feel free to reach out if you need anything—we will make sure to connect you to someone who can help, or at the very least, listen.

Resources


This case study focuses on a set of resources put together by Brooklyn LAB Charter School. This link contains all the resources discussed.
Brooklyn LAB worked to provide those affected by the pandemic as many resources as possible. This HelpLine is available Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST at (800) 950-6264.
Helpful resources including podcasts and support groups for homelessness, for children who have lost family members and friends, parents who have lost children, and partners who have lost their loved one
Columbia University has resources including one that talks about Managing Bereavement around COVID-19.
This is a site specific to educators and is designed to provide educators with the information, insights, and practical advice they need to better understand and meet the needs of the millions of grieving kids in America’s classrooms.
This National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provides information, guidelines, and resources to help support the learning and well-being of students, their families and others in the school community during the COVID-19 crisis.
This resource from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities provides suggestions and resources for this specific population.
These resources compiled by Autism Speaks serve as an entry point for discussing grief and loss with students with autism.
This resource from The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) serves to promote the ability of children and youth to cope with traumatic or unsettling times.
This resource from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement offers resources tailored for various audiences, such as educators, mental health professionals, and parents.
This resource from Harvard University provides specific recommendations for handling stress during the pandemic.
This compilation from the American Clinical Social Work Association links to tools and resources available from agencies such as Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, The Wellness Society, and the Red Cross.
These documents from The National Center for Grieving Children & Families provide frameworks and resources for responding to grief and loss during the pandemic.
This resource from the National Alliance for Grieving Children suggests activities and strategies that can be used to help students cope with feelings associated with grief and loss, as well as rapid change.
This resource from the Children’s Grief Education Association outlines age-specific expectations for how students may deal with grief, as well as suggestions for each.
Scholastic’s website provides a wealth of information about how children grieve and that teachers can help children manage loss.
This site links to resources to help schools to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families and communities throughout the United States.

About The Author

The mission of Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB) is to prepare scholars with the academic foundation, digital literacy, and leadership skills necessary to succeed in college and professional life as they grow as ethical leaders.

 

Brooklyn LAB, named an XQ Super School, is based on the belief that every young person deserves to learn in a school with high expectations for their academic success, no matter where they start. Students are called “scholars,” signaling the high bar the school sets for them and their learning.

 

School staff are actively building a supportive culture that empowers students, encourages their independence, promotes agency, and teaches them about themselves as learners.

 

Families are involved in challenging and supporting students, helping them define their learning goals, and outlining a learning path.