Spirit Lake Schools selected for mental health grant funding

Tuesday, August 31, 2021
The Spirit Lake School District intends to apply $100,000 in grant funding toward mental health services that will benefit all grade levels. The district was one of 64 successful applicants for funding from the Governor's Emergency Educational Relief Fund. (Photo by Seth Boyes)

Less than half the 130 applications for grant funding through the Governor's Emergency Educational Relief Fund were successful, but the Spirit Lake School District was one of the 64 districts selected. The grants are meant to assist in providing mental health support and other services to both students and families, according to the Iowa Department of Education. Spirit Lake was awarded $100,000 from the fund — part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which passed in December.

"We feel very fortunate to have received this mental health grant," Spirit Lake Superintendent David Smith said. "We believe that our desire to offer services and additional supports for students at the school were the biggest factors in receiving this grant. This is good for our students and families."

The state said more than $8.6 million in competitive grant funding is to be awarded to school districts across Iowa. The funding is to be distributed to each of the successful applicants based on their respective enrollment numbers from the previous school year, according to the Iowa Department of Education, unless otherwise specified in the application. The state said applicants had to demonstrate unique needs their students and families experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and priority was given to districts which proposed providing direct mental health services.

"We are working with the Sioux Rivers (Mental Health) Region coordinator for mental health service providers who will partner with the school and plan programming for our students and their families," Smith said. "The grant will also provide training in mental health first aid for our high school team in charge of health and wellness for our Wednesday Life Skills programming."

Smith feels students will benefit from the additional support available through the school, and the programming is expected to engage multiple grade levels.

"This will make services more available to students and families when they are needed," Smith said. "This grant will also give us an opportunity to build awareness of mental health through our Wednesday Life Skills programming."

Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, said the funding will hopefully help schools across the state expand their services to address growing social, emotional and behavioral health needs as the new academic year begins. She said that may include youth mental health first aid training like that which Smith mentioned, suicide prevention programs or other areas of need.

“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,” Lebo said in a statement last week.

Elsewhere in the region, Spencer and Storm Lake schools also received grant funding — Spencer was awarded $100,000, and Storm Lake was awarded $184,000.

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