Belleville school is first in nation to offer ‘compassion meditation’

The first school in the nation to try using a specific form of meditation to combat students’ behavioral issues was in Belleville District 118.

With approval from their families, 17 students at Douglas Elementary School who were struggling because of depression, stress or anger participated in “compassion meditation.” They were the inaugural class that provided data for Dr. Jeremy Jewell, the director of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s clinical child and school psychology program.

The findings?

“They get better over the semester,” Jewell told the school board in a presentation Tuesday night.

Participants were asked to chant a mantra: “May you have happiness. May you be free from suffering, and may you experience joy and ease.” The idea is for students to learn about compassion by first focusing on themselves, then on a friend, on a stranger and, finally, on an enemy.

The program has since moved into two more schools: Abraham Lincoln Elementary School and Union Elementary School.

Jewell said he will use the data from the Douglas students to write a grant to fund one full-time social worker for five of District 118’s buildings to continue the meditation program.

“This is actually the first program developed for kids in schools,” Jewell said. The meditation was implemented previously in the Madison County Juvenile Detention Center, he said.

Company will test water, air quality in schools

During its meeting Tuesday, the District 118 school board approved an agreement with Environmental Consultants, LLC, to test the air quality of each school in the district and to look for any lead in the water.

“We really don’t have any concerns (about lead) even though we have some buildings that are pretty old,” because the plumbing has been updated, Boike said.

Environmental Consultants will make recommendations to the district and perform semiannual testing as part of a maintenance program under the agreement. The cost will not exceed $50,650.

Board looks at 2017 budget, 2016 audit

District 118 also took care of some annual financial business Tuesday.

The school board approved the budget for fiscal year 2017, updated the district’s risk management plan and accepted the 2016 audit.

Assistant Superintendent Ryan Boike said the district is predicting a $398,873 deficit for the year. That’s not factoring in the $1.1 million that Superintendent Matt Klosterman said the state owes District 118.

Boike said the 2016 audit was positive overall. There was one finding by independent auditors Rice Sullivan, LLC: that the district was over-budget by $20 in one fund.

“One of the things we’ve tried to do every year is try to do a little bit better,” Boike said.

The budget will be available on the district’s website by Wednesday, and the audit will be posted online within the week, Boike said.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes