BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Boardman Center Intermediate School (BCIS) has an exciting project in the works for its more than 800 students, teachers and staff.

It’s in the process of converting its second-floor auditorium into a Social-Emotional Learning Center. In a few short months, the room will be undergoing a complete transformation.

“The goal is for the programming, the ideas, the smiles and the laughter that take place in our social and emotional learning center trickle down into our classrooms, and that’s where we truly strengthen our school,” said BCIS Principal Mike Masucci.

Masucci says coming back to the classroom since the pandemic has brought to light more needs and issues in children.

“Coping skills is huge, learning to deal with disappointment. There’s a lot of grief and loss that we’re currently dealing with, with inflation that’s really taking a toll on families,” said BCIS counselor Kendra Baltas.

Baltas says having a space for students to work through these difficult emotions with their peers is essential and shows them they’re not alone in their struggles.

The idea behind the space is inspired by Walt Disney World. There will be a simulated oak tree with hundreds of LED lights at the center of the room, serving as a reflection of the community and incorporating aspects of Boardman Park and Mill Creek Park. It’s all to help students feel safe and flourish.

“It’s our responsibility, I feel, to give them every tool in their toolbox to be successful,” Masucci said.

Students will learn how to manage negative behaviors, be calm and focused, and maintain positive relationships with their peers.

“Those social skills are vital to them as they progress through middle school and throughout their life really. The emotional wellness is also vital to how they perform academically here at school and how they interact with others,” said BCIS counselor Maggie Kamenitsa.

“At the end of the day, in my eyes, a safer school is built on strong relationships, and our culture and our climate is going to foster that and make BCIS an even better place,” Masucci said.

The Social-Emotional Learning Center is receiving a lot of support from the community already. Chick-fil-A and Alta Behavioral Health have recently visited the center to take a look at the space and discuss the possibilities.

We’re told the school plans to have the tree up, along with some paintings and pictures, by the time students go on break for the holidays.