Rebuilding and reconnecting school communities with Alberta’s trusted approach

Over the last few years, school communities were nimble and worked hard to get through uncertainty created by the pandemic. Schools provided students with both virtual and in-person learning environments that were caring, welcoming, healthy, and safe. Teachers and school staff showed strength and resilience like never before.

The dedication and efforts of school health champions, students, families, and the broader community can’t be understated. Still, the pressures of the pandemic have left many school communities looking to rebuild and reconnect.

As we move forward in K-12 schools, let's support recovery by returning to our roots in school health and wellness.

Returning to our roots

The roots of school health are the well-established frameworks, processes, and tools that guide us. They're evidence-based, yet flexible and adaptable for moving forward.

Let's remember these roots as we restore school routines and experiences in the days and months ahead.

This trusted, evidence-based blueprint for creating healthy schools fosters connections and facilitates recovery from the past years of uncertainty. It helps us organize and understand healthy schools using four components: teaching and learning, social and physical environments, partnerships, and policies.

The CSH framework is effective in creating positive change within school communities. It embeds health into existing structures and practices, making wellness a way of life at school. 

Learn more: The CSH framework

The 5 step process supports school planning that is grounded in evidence, shaped by local context, and tailored to local strengths and needs. Using these steps to guide recovery will lead to changes that are coordinated and likely to last, and will help avoid one-time activities or events that don't have a lasting impact.

Learn more: 5 steps to a healthy school

The essential conditions are factors or circumstances that influence the likelihood that comprehensive school health comes to life at school. Ensuring that these essential conditions are in place makes it easier for schools to sustain healthy learning environments that support pandemic recovery.

Learn more: Essential conditions

Offering a continuum of supports ensures that all students have access to school-based strategies and resources that are flexible and responsive to their individual needs. Using the comprehensive school health framework helps to create strong and effective universal supports (tier 1) that bolster the health and wellness of the majority of students, meaning that fewer will need targeted supports (tier 2) or intensive supports (tier 3).

Learn more: Implementing a continuum of supports and services: A resource guide for school and school authority leaders 


Applying a recovery lens

The pandemic has many of us thinking differently about school health. Moving forward we can focus our efforts in new and innovative ways to better support students, staff, and families.

Emerging research into pandemic recovery suggests we keep five key learnings in mind:  

  • All of us endured the pandemic and the variety of changes that came along with it. For some, the pandemic created additional problems in already challenging situations. These added pressures have widened gaps and highlight the importance of looking for equitable solutions.
  • Not all students and staff experienced the pandemic in the same way. Understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all experience will help us approach recovery with humility and compassion.
    • The social determinants of health affected how students experienced and continue to experience the pandemic and everyday life. Challenges like poverty, food insecurity, poor housing and living conditions may have intensified for some students and families.
    • Some students have ongoing experiences with racism, discrimination, and historical trauma. These systemic barriers hold people back from being the healthiest they can be.
    • Some people experienced profound grief, loss of loved ones, or other significant disruptions in their lives.
  • Each member of the school community has a different and unique story. Creating opportunities for students and community members to share their stories helps to surface equity issues and serves as a starting point for exploring ways to address them.

Learn more: What determines health?

  • Providing young people with opportunities to provide input and share their perspectives on healthy schools improves their sense of control and resilience in uncertain times. The path to recovery should be paved with the support of students. 
  • When students are involved in identifying priorities, making plans, and taking part in decisions, school health activities are more likely to be successful and long-lasting.
  • Being intentional about asking students for their opinions and insights helps to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate in school experiences. This can also help school authorities to surface and address equity concerns.

Learn more: Amplify student voice

  • Intentional efforts to create a sense of belonging for students, staff, and families bolsters mental health and well-being throughout the school year. 
  • School experiences create connections, build spirit, and bond students to each other and to their school communities. They help students to connect in ways that are meaningful to them, boosting their sense of belonging. Examples of these activities include:
    • School sports and intramurals
    • School-based clubs, mentorship programs, GSAs and other peer support networks
    • Art, music, and cultural activities and performances
    • Whole-school assemblies, theme days, and spirit events
    • Activities and events for families
  • Incorporating student voice in these types of activities helps students feel a sense of connectedness, pride, and community.

Learn more: Support healthy relationships

  • Teaching and learning
    • Integrating health across the curriculum helps make wellness part of daily life at school. When health and wellness practices are natural part of everyday school routines, rather than as stand-alone activities, the whole school climate shifts with an emphasis on being well. 
    • High-quality professional learning that is tailored to the learning goals of educators can improve school climate. This is especially true when professional learning supports the implementation of evidence-based strategies such as mental health literacy and social emotional learning.
  • Environment
    • Creating a school environment where all students and staff feel welcomed, cared for, respected, and safe is foundational to health and wellness.  
    • Outdoor learning and play promotes positive mental health and increases physical activity. Many schools made great use of outdoor spaces during the pandemic. Continuing this practice will support wellness. 
  • Partnerships
    • Schools can once again open their doors and welcome families, Elders, and community partners into their classrooms and buildings. Many of these people and groups are keen to re-engage and reconnect with students and staff. School communities can maximize opportunities by hosting family and community engagement events and making intentional efforts to connect with partners.
  • Policy
    • This year is a chance to expand on key learning and enhance supports for the future. Reviewing and revitalizing policies that support school health and wellness is timely. This includes policies related to safe and caring schools, physical activity and recess, school nutrition, and comprehensive school health.

Learn more: The CSH framework

  • COVID-19 has reinforced the need to continue our focus on mental health.
  • There are many effective ways to address and improve mental health at school. It’s important to continue to apply these strategies and to understand the ways different health outcomes are interconnected. For example:
    • Keeping physically active throughout the school day and spending time outdoors may bolster mental health
    • Eating well supports readiness to learn and may improve mood and behaviour in the classroom
    • Feeling welcomed and included in a school community may strengthen attendance and academic success at school

Learn more: Mental health

Recovery resources

COVID-19 school resources

CMS Shortcuts
 Edit Page
 Edit in CMS