Grandview Heights Schools Notebook: Healthy, happy students ready to learn

Jamie Lusher
Grandview Heights Schools

The key to student success is to embrace and honor the whole child. At Grandview Heights Schools, wellness is a core value of the district and community. Where many other districts are just beginning to broach the subject of wellness, Grandview Heights Schools’ Wellness for Life model and district committee have been in existence for six years.

Jamie Lusher

Consisting of educators, psychologists, nutritional doctors, parents, school counselors, administrators and advocates, our Wellness for Life committee works diligently to continue the important mission of integrating the most critical subject of our children’s lives into each grade level, content area and support-services program.

Mental health is an issue that transcends every community, every tax bracket, race, age and gender, thus making it the most important subject we should teach at every grade level and within every content area in every school in the country.

With the National Alliance on Mental Health asserting that one out of every four people at some point will struggle with a mental-health condition, it is imperative that we provide our students with the resources and tools necessary to both prevent and combat mental-health conditions, especially during this unprecedented time.

The state budget allocated funding to Ohio’s schools with free, evidence-based prevention curricula and professional development for school personnel. Our district is projected to receive $36,000 in fiscal 2021 to enhance and improve our mental-health services and programming. We have taken this funding as an opportunity to build a program that supports students in every building in our district.

Stevenson Elementary School students benefit from a variety of wellness programs. Every week, principal Angie Ullum shares a videotaped Thoughtful Thursday announcement with students and staff based on the learning attributes. For example, one announcement encouraged students to create their own mantra similar to “The Lion King’s” “Hakuna Matata” (no worries), and the topic of gratitude became tangible when students wrote thank-you notes to someone special. 

Movement is another important part of wellness. The Stevenson PTO combines physical activity and fundraising with its annual fall Move-a-Thon. School counselor Stephanie Doran and physical-education teacher Tom Gilbert host Wellness Fridays, a virtual gathering where students participate in a planned activity that incorporates both movement and self-care.

Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School is structuring mental-health check-ins with students. The grade-level teams are integrating mindfulness strategies as a part of their daily school schedules. A new study-table program has been implemented to provide additional instruction support, which lessens academic stress and gives students an opportunity to collaborate with their teachers and peers.

Connection beyond academics is a large piece of student success and wellness. Our teachers work diligently to find creative ways to keep clubs, activities and events active during this unusual school year. In early fall, students in grades 9-12 take a “connect survey” to ensure every student has at least one trusted adult in the building and is connected to a club, sport or activity other than academics, and our high school Youth to Youth Club is creating more effective ways to help students who are new to the district to feel more welcome.

Our August staff professional development, titled LAUNCH, also included a wellness aspect. Moving forward, we anticipate further wellness and mental-health-awareness components in our professional development to support our whole-child-wellness initiative.

These are just a few examples of the many initiatives we are either beginning or building upon this school year to support the mental health and well-being of our students as we continue our mission to maximize and personalize every student’s learning. 

For more information about our Wellness for Life curriculum, go to www.ghschools.org or contact me at jamie.lusher@ghschools.org.

Jamie Lusher is Grandview Heights Schools’ chief academic officer.