Districts Using Grant Money for Improved Technology, Mental Health Training

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the focus for many school districts when it comes to how grant money will be utilized.

Districts Using Grant Money for Improved Technology, Mental Health Training

School districts across the country are continuing to use grant money for a wide variety of applications during the coronavirus pandemic, including technology for remote learning and training for behavioral health specialists.

The Waynesboro Area School District (WASD) in Pennsylvania has received federal grant money to update technology as the new school year commences. The district received $288,000 from the CARES Act, reports Herald-Mail Media. The district will use the funds to buy additional Chromebook cases, 20 internet hotspots and computer power adapters.

“We are looking at this in preparation for if we have to make school virtual,” said WASD Superintendent Tod Kline.

The hotspots will be installed throughout the community to give free internet access to students with district-owned devices. The devices will automatically connect to the hotspots and provide access only to district-owned devices.

“What we are doing is putting them in a waterproof container that will be a hotspot area where students can go if they don’t have internet at home or a reliable access point. Right now, we only have one place and are actively looking for places to put them up,” said WASD Director of Technology Nicholas Erickson. “The district has been working toward this every year, so it’s been part of the long-term plan.”

If WASD schools move to remote learning, each student will be issued a Chromebook to complete schoolwork. All district devices are equipped with Go Guardian, a content-filtering application used to keep students safe while online. The application allows students to chat with other students and their teachers. It also has a video-conferencing feature that allows for one-on-one conversations or a full conference with a whole class.

“During the school days, the instructor can monitor that the students are on task and monitor their activity,” Erickson said. “All interactions are recorded for security purposes.”

In Texas, the Waco Independent School District (WISD) has received $17,000 from the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Mental Health grant, which will be used to provide training and strategies to implement peer mediation programs, according to KCENTV.

“One of our top priorities is creating and sustaining safe and supportive learning environments for our students and staff,” said Waco ISD Assistant Superintendent for Student Services and Support Dr. Rachelle Warren. “Empowering students to be active partners in this effort significantly increases the effectiveness of peer mediation and its long-term impact.”

The STOP grant will also give the district the chance to partner with Education Service Center Region 12 and other community organizations to help implement the new strategies.

“This has come at a crucial time for us with the ongoing stress of the pandemic,” Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said. “Teaching students effective coping skills and self-regulation are critical to not only their social and emotional health but also their educational success.”

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