Schools receive $8.6 million in funding to help with mental health

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(ABC 6 News) – Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education announced more than $8.6 million in competitive grants that will go to 64 Iowa school districts.

The funding will provide mental health support and other wrap-around services to students and their families. Clear Lake Community School District is one of those districts receiving money from the state and they will receive $100,000.

“What we decided to do was we had a social worker we were sharing with four other school districts so we had her one day a week. We decided to keep her four days a week this year so we’re going to use some of that additional funding to pay for those three days,” Superintendent Doug Gee of Clear Lake Community School District said.

Students and educators have been hit hard by the pandemic, and now that they’re back at school, superintendent Doug Gee hopes this funding can help everyone adapt.

Last year, the district saw an increase in mental health referrals, and kids that were missing more than 15 days of school.

Along with adding an additional counselor to the elementary school, the district is looking at adding saber assessments, an assessment to better learn how schools can help students socially, academically, and emotionally.

“There’s more to school than education. That social and emotional connection, teaching kids how to play and just the interaction with other people and I just how to play appropriately, they just didn’t get that when they were at home in front of a screen,” Superintendent Gee said.

In a news release – Iowa governor Kim Reynolds shared her thoughts and says “This investment is not only about adapting to the challenges we face today, but it will help schools expand support systems to secure better outcomes moving forward."

And that statement is something another superintendent agrees with.

“We have such a need for social and emotional learning,” Superintendent Mike Crozier of Northwood-Kensett Community School District said.

Superintendent Crozier says the district applied for more than $100,000 in hopes of adding another social worker. The district is receiving $38,000, but the costs won’t cover adding another social worker.

He says – there are a few other options on the table.

“Maybe we can get some teleconferencing lined up for our students. Maybe we can bring in somebody one day a week for the year,” Superintendent Crozier said.

South Winneshiek School District superintendent Kris Einck says they will receive $38,000, and like the other superintendents, Einck says the district will use the money for mental health resources for students.

“The money will be used for our social and emotional learning resources. The funding is crucial so we can provide the necessary resources to help out students who are struggling with their mental health. This helps our counselors, social worker, and Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) teams provide not only themselves but the rest of the staff with tools to help students struggling with anxiety, depression, etc,” Superintendent Einck said.

Some of the other school districts that received funding are Charles City, Deborah, and Humboldt.