Information about a “Break Room” established to benefit students at Clarinda High School was presented to members of the Board of Education during their meeting Wednesday, Oct. 9.
“The biggest misnomer out there is that it is a student lounge,” said high school counselor Shannon Almelien. “That’s not the purpose of it. It is a supervised room that allows students to self-regulate and to hopefully withdraw from potential situations before they escalate.”
According to a resource guide containing policies and practices related to the room, the location is a “supportive therapeutic” space that “assists students in their self-calming efforts by offering them a relaxing environment. The room is furnished to inspire mindfulness and stress reduction, and can offer an absence of peer interpersonal interactions for the purpose of tension reduction.”
Almelien described the room as a place for students “to get whatever is on their chest that day under control so they can go and learn better.”
The room is adjacent to Almeliens’s office. “I’m the only one who has access,” she said. “It’s a very private space. If I am not in the office, it [the room] is closed. I will do everything in my power to try keep it open.”
The interior has been designed “to soothe the senses while the student can experience calming visual, auditory and tactile stimuli,” according to the resource guide.
“Everything in there has a purpose for what it’s doing,” Almelien said.
Lights are dimmed, and comfortable chairs are available, although individuals may sit on the floor if they choose. There are coloring books, puzzles, “Fidgets” and other items that can be utilized to reduce stress. Music can be accessed through a Bluetooth speaker.
In addition, two “salt rocks” are in the location. “There is science behind that for changing the energy in a room,” Almelien said, adding that she looking for “evidence-based visual aids for self-regulation.”
Also implemented have been coping mechanisms, including breathing techniques, for managing stress. “This is just the beginning of what we’re trying to put together,” Almelien said.
At present, the capacity for the room is three students at a time. The length of a stay is usually about 10 minutes. Protocols are in effect stipulating how the room can be accessed, and spell out the responsibilities for individuals while they are in the room and when they leave it.
Almelien said policies adopted for use of the room adhere to some procedures being developed at the state level.
“We’re ahead of the game already,” she said.
Meanwhile, research is being done for the creation of a similar room at Clarinda Middle School.
“We’re currently in the process of planning that out,” said counselor Heidi Bird.
Space in the building will be updated for the room, and furniture will be selected, she said.
Financial assistance for the project has received a boost through a monetary gift of $800 from an anonymous donor.