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Improving CCSD student mental health among uses for COVID funds

Updated October 28, 2022 - 9:08 am

The Clark County School District said Thursday it is putting some of its $777 million in federal coronavirus relief money toward improving mental health services and securing English-language learner endorsements for teachers.

Last summer, the district held conversations with the community to solicit feedback in spending the money, which comes from the American Rescue Plan and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The money is meant to help combat challenges faced by students and teachers during the pandemic.

While delivering the first report on the annual use of the funds Thursday, the district’s chief strategy officer, Kellie Kowal-Paul, said the district had until Sept. 30, 2024, to put the money toward programs.

On Thursday, the district highlighted several areas where money was spent, including:

– Investing $70 million in recruiting and retaining teachers to drastically reduce classroom vacancies.

– Giving each district elementary school a budget to address the academic, social-emotional and behavioral needs of each student.

– Improving access to technology so that every student in the district has a laptop or tablet to access online curriculum.

– Providing access to one-on-one tutoring and mental health services for all students.

– Providing professional learning opportunities for teachers to access literacy and science instruction as well as a chance to pursue a master’s degree in English-language learning at no cost.

As of Oct. 1, the district had spent or planned to spend more than one-third, or just over $255 million, of the money.

The district said its spending was ahead of schedule, but Trustee Lisa Guzman questioned whether it needed more time to allocate the funds, pointing to a letter that Superintendent Jesus Jara had signed with other urban superintendents asking for more time to spend it.

Jara said the letter included all superintendents from the state of Nevada. The district was facing challenges with “supply and demand” and thought it was “always good to err on the side of caution” when it came to asking for extra time to disburse the funds, he said.

“How do we not come off the cliff knowing our state investment in K-12 education?” he said. “It helps us to kind of slowly come off the cliff if we have the extra time.”

Vicki Kreidel, a reading teacher and president of the National Education Association of Southern Nevada, emphasized that student behavior had become an overwhelming concern and that the district needed to be putting every allowable dollar toward supporting students’ mental health.

The district saw a spike in violence last school year as students returned to their first full year of in-person classes following the start of the pandemic. The violence culminated in an incident in April at Eldorado High School where a teacher was violently assaulted, prompting the district to implement several new security measures.

Kreidel said Thursday she had never seen what was currently happening in the district before and that educators did not have the skills to handle some of these problems.

“The educators cannot do this on our own. We need help. …” she said. “This is something that needs to be addressed before we have another Eldorado.”

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi @reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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