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Nurturing Minds and Hearts: The Ecosystem of Cariño and the Evolution of the Flex Period

Chris Ready

In the Napa Valley Unified School District, we are fostering an Ecosystem of Cariño in all our schools, but here we're focused on middle school. An Ecosystem of Cariño places students' social-emotional well-being first. A key goal of our Ecosystem of Cariño is to provide that support without lowering academic expectations.

The Flex period is a modified advisory period. It was first introduced in our district at Redwood Middle School over five years ago. Last year, Flex was adopted by all middle schools as a result of the Middle School design process. The concept merges study hall with the resposive support of targeted academic intervention. The goal of Flex is to ensure the success of every student. This year, we're thrilled to enhance the Flex period with the implementation of the Edficiency platform. It is already in place at American Canyon Middle School and Unidos Middle School. By November 1 we expect it will be in place in middle schools district wide.

The Edficiency program streamlines the Flex period. The process allows teachers to use the platform  to record attendance and provides teachers the ability to invite students to receive targeted support. The goal is to ensure that we are offering students support for their unique academic needs. This is a great example of our Ecosystem of Cariño approach.

But don't just take our word for it—listen to what our students have to say about the Flex period:

Leah, an 8th-grade student at Redwood Middle School, says, "For my Flex period, we read for 15 minutes, which has me caught up with AR [Accelerated Reader], so I get my reading done." This is a perfect example of how Flex supports our board priority of reading and writing across the curriculum.

Gianni, an 8th grader at Unidos Middle School, uses his Flex time for Mathia and Dreambox. He notes, "When I'm all caught up on my work, I can help other people with their work if I have already done it or know how to do it." This sense of community and collaboration is at the heart of our Ecosystem of Cariño. It is also a perfect example of how Flex provides tailored academic support.

Wyatt, an 8th-grade student at Redwood Middle School, appreciates the sense of unity the Flex period fosters, "You're all on the same team, you all have the same classes, and the same homework... So if you have any problems, you can ask a classmate." This collaborative environment is crucial to our approach of prioritizing students' social-emotional needs.

Kendra, an 8th-grade student at Unidos Middle School, explains how the Flex period caters to individual needs: "It [Flex] helps for certain needs; if you need something done in a certain class, you need it [help] specifically, they [staff] might pull you out of your advisory and put you in that class [for Flex]." This responsive approach aligns perfectly with our commitment to an Ecosystem of Cariño.

Judah, an 8th grader at Redwood Middle School, sums up the Flex period nicely: "We have AR [Accelerated Reader] goals, you always have the time to take a quiz in their [Flex period]. Most of the teachers can sign off on your homework for you; there are lots of things you can do in Flex." Judah concludes, "Overall, I like Flex, I think it is helpful."

We are proud to offer our students a nurturing and academically rigorous environment through our Ecosystem of Cariño and the Flex period. As we continue to implement the Edficiency program in all middle schools by November 1, we are excited to see the positive impacts on our students' academic and emotional well-being continue to unfold.

  • 02 - Middle Schools