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Charles City schools receive $100,000 grant for mental health support

By James Grob, [email protected]

The Charles City Community School District will receive $100,000 in federal COVID-19 relief money for mental health support, according to a release from the Iowa Department of Education this week.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that over $8.6 million in competitive grants will be awarded to 64 school districts to assist them in providing mental health support and other services to students and families.

The funds are provided through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER II), which is part of the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRSSA) Act passed in December 2020. Governors in each state were granted a share of discretionary dollars to address critical needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school district stated in a news release Thursday that is excited to be a recipient of the funding “to expand mental health support services for Charles City Community Schools students and families.”

“We know there are needs in every Iowa community today where families can benefit from additional resources,” the statement said. “All too often our teachers are the first to see signs of students who could benefit from additional mental health resources.”

The district said that, with the grant, Charles City schools will be able to provide more direct mental health services with support from staff and community partners. Additionally, the grant provides group-oriented services for students who may be struggling with similar issues.

“An example of this would include anxiety and/or peer group concerns,” the school district stated. “There will be additional training to help students and staff support each other as well as help identify if a peer is struggling with mental health concerns and how to access help and support for their peers.”

The district said it was excited to improve on existing resources while also exploring new possibilities the additional funding can provide.

“As we prepare for a new school year it is important to remember that what happens outside of the classroom has a substantial impact on students in the classroom,” said Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education.

“These additional resources will help schools expand services to address growing social-emotional-behavioral health needs and support the overall well-being of students, including youth mental health first aid training and implementation, suicide prevention services and other programming.”

A total of 130 grant applications were received. Funding will be distributed equitably across awardees based on district-certified enrollment for the 2020-21 school year unless an applicant requested a different amount.

Applicants had to demonstrate unique student and family mental health needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Priority consideration was given to districts proposing to provide direct mental health services to students and families.

“We have to look at the whole health of every child and supporting the mental health of Iowa children and families is a top priority of mine,” said Gov. Reynolds. “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.”

Grants will be finalized following a 10-business-day appeal period, as required by state law, and distributed on a reimbursement basis. A “Notice of Intent to Award” letter sent to the school district Tuesday started the 10-business day-period in which an unsuccessful grantee may file an appeal.

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