Brookline School Committee explores safety protocols and student stress



Student stress has been on the rise, especially after adjusting to the return to school.

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) met virtually via Zoom on Oct. 9 at 5:00 p.m. to discuss the mental health repercussions, COVID-19 safety protocols of the return to in-person schooling and the Spotlight on Excellence award.

Claire Gallion, student representative for the BSC, said the adjustment to fully in-person learning has been hard on many students and has affected the general mental health of the population.

“We have to take into account that this is a huge transition mentally, emotionally and physically. Students were crumbling under the pressure even before the pandemic. Jumping right back into 100 percent of the workload is not serving us well,” Gallion said.

Gallion also noted the focus of the 2020-2021 school year on mental health and well-being of students had an impact on the amount of stress the student body felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Gallion said, the focus has shifted away.

“We need to give the impression to all teachers and students that the high school really cares about our mental health as students and make that a priority,” Gallion said. “I think that thinking about what we can take from last year and applying it to this year, and years forward, would be really valuable.”

Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Lesley Ryan Miller said the administration and faculty are aware of this issue and are working actively to create solutions to help students.

“We’re thinking collaboratively about how to solve this. I think there is a process we need to work through with teachers that gives them permission to think about what is essential to the curriculum, what can they take off your plates and what can they slow down on to give some relief,” Miller said.

The return to in-person schooling has also affected the safety and precautionary measures taken by the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB). The BSC reviewed the superintendent report produced by Superintendent Dr. Linus Guillory, which contained some of the new measures in place.

One new guideline that PSB adopted was recommending students stay home if they felt unwell, regardless of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Guillory said students and families had been abiding by the recommendation, as well as following masking rules.

“We are actually seeing an increase in absences from students and families that are adhering to our asks about staying home if you are not feeling well. As I’m visiting classrooms, I’m also seeing staff wearing masks and our students and staff self-regulating in that regard. Our students are doing a great job of it, from pre-kindergarten through BHS,” Guillory said.

The BSC also awarded senior Thomasin Schmults, senior Sophie O’Connell and junior Valentia Burlak the Spotlight on Excellence for their work on creating the Spotlight Theatre, a student-run drama program that operates in the PSB from 6th to 8th grade.

Kenny Kozol, the Performing Arts Curriculum Coordinator, said the program began during the pandemic and faced difficulties because of that, but O’Connell, Schmults and Burlak worked to overcome those challenges.

“They have worked so hard at this program. I’m so impressed with how organized they are and how pragmatic and methodical they are about everything. They come from a place of deep understanding of how performing arts is so essential to every student and they want to share that,” Kozol said. “They really have impressed us so much. They represent, in many ways, the best of our school system.”