SFUSD Expands Access to Health and Wellness Supports for Students

As part of its preparations for a full return to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is committed to supporting students’ mental health and wellness and, with the help of a private donation, will be able to offer more health and wellness services for middle school students, starting with three schools in SFUSD.

“This fall we are asking all of our school staff to focus on fostering a sense of belonging, cultivating a positive school climate, and we are encouraging all the adults who work with our students to practice strategies that foster inclusion and achievement,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews.

SFUSD has created at least three weeks of lesson plans and resources to support launching the year with a set of shared common principles across content areas and grade levels. The resources were developed around a set of principles that aim to provide coherence across classes so students can feel safe, welcomed, valued, and celebrated as they return to in-person learning: relationship building with others and with oneself; assessing learning; collaborating among peers and with families; infusion of writing; and technology integration.

When the school year begins, SFUSD school staff will also be making “welcome back” calls to all families to check in and let families tell their own stories. These calls will build upon the district’s “Family Wellness Check-Ins” initiative that launched at the start of the pandemic in spring 2020, when schools across the district called their families in SFUSD’s first ever system-wide approach to family outreach to provide an individual, school site, and system wide snapshot of how students and families were doing.

“We understand how important face to face interaction is for students' well-being, and we are excited about bringing students back to in-person learning, which is crucial for their emotional and mental development,” SF Board of Education President Gabriela L√≥pez said. “Children learn, love, and thrive best when surrounded by thoughtful adults and other children in a safe environment. Our schools are filled with caring individuals like teachers, administrators, counselors, social workers and school district nurses. We are all ready to welcome back our students and families, and will be especially attentive of students who need additional support.”

San Francisco public schools have long been a leader in implementing systems to support the emotional and physical well-being of students. SFUSD’s School Social Worker to student ratio is one of the lowest among California public school districts, thanks in large part to funding from the voter-approved San Francisco Public Education Enrichment Fund. SFUSD employs 15% of California public school Social Workers, but makes up less than 1% of California public school students. SFUSD currently has 70 school district nurses who serve schools either full-time or part-time. In addition, school staff may call to consult with a school nurse at any time.

SFUSD has Coordinated Care Teams (CCTs) at every school site, who work together to organize student and family support activities and share information among all of the participants concerned with a student’s success.

San Francisco’s Wellness Initiative is in place at 19 high school campuses. Wellness Centers provide safe, confidential settings where students can access health experts and gain the skills they need to cope with complex issues such as stress, trauma, suicide, bullying, depression, self-esteem, drug and alcohol use, sexual health and relationships.