Schools in the United States are using a large increase in federal funding to support student mental health.

School systems or districts are given a lot of freedom in how they can spend the federal money. But psychological problems in the students had become clear. Districts have an increase in behavioral problems, and signs of stress Absenteeism when students returned to class this fall. For many, it was the first time back in a full classroom since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Kansas City, Kansas, educators open an after-school mental health center. The center is filled with advisor and social workers. Schools in Chicago, Illinois have “mentoring teams” on a mission to help students in difficulty.

In some school districts, the money has supported longstanding work to help students deal with trauma – difficult experiences that have led to emotional problems. Other school systems have made new efforts to treat students. Overall, money puts public schools at the center of efforts to improve the overall well-being of students.

When the government sent aid to schools after the economic recession in 2008, conversation didn’t happen, ”said Amanda Fitzgerald. She is with the American School Counselor Association. Now, according to Fitzgerald, the discussion across the country is very much about student welfare.

Last month, three major child health groups said the child mental health situation should be viewed as a national emergency. The U.S. Department of Education has called on the aid to rethink the way schools offer psychological support. Education Minister Miguel Cardona said mental health needs to be at the center of recovery from the pandemic.

Pandemic aid to schools is $ 190 billion. That’s more than four times what the Department of Education normally spends kindergarten up to 12th grade every year. The money for mental health services went towards employee training, mental health assessments, and classes that include social and emotional learning.

Fifth grader Jordan Falconbury reads in a tent while visiting a sensory room at Quincy Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas on Wednesday, November 3, 2021 (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Many counties have worked on it rent more mental health experts. The National Association of School Psychologists surveyed its members in the fall. It found that more than half of the districts had plans to host social workers, Psychologists or consultant.

With $ 9.5 million in federal and external grants, Paterson Schools in New Jersey added five behavioral experts. The district also hired two substance abuse experts and workers who were able to identify students in crisis.

Paterson is one of the poorest parts of New Jersey. Many of the 25,000 students there were hungry before the pandemic and struggled after family members lost their jobs, Superintendent Eileen Shafer said.

“We wanted to make sure that before we tried to teach anything new, we could handle where our kids are based on what they went through,” she said.

In Ellicottville, New York, school psychologist Joe Prior sees more anxiety among students. He said the district would use the help to hire a counselor to connect students with psychological help.

Chicago, the third largest school district in the country, created a “cure plan” for students using $ 24 million of the $ 2.6 billion in federal aid.

In Detroit, the district spends $ 34 million on mental health programs. The school system uses the money to screen students, expand help from outside mental health providers, and provide additional support to parents.

On a last Wednesday that meant an hour meditation Parents meet at a local cafe. One parent feared that their own stress was affecting their son’s ability to learn.

“As a community, we’ve all been through something,” said Sharlonda Buckman, an assistant superintendent who attended the meeting. “Part of the recovery has to be something” intentionally work in spaces like this so we can be there for ours children. “

I am Dan Novak.

The Associated Press and Chalkbeat covered this story. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in this story

absent – adj. not present in a usual or expected place

advisor – n. a person who provides professional advice

conversation – n. an informal conversation with two people or a small group of people: the act of informal conversation

kindergarten – n. a school or class for very young children

rent – v. Giving (someone) a job or a job in exchange for wages or salaries

psychologist – n. a scientist who specializes in the study and treatment of mind and behavior

anxiety – n. Fear or nervousness about what might happen

meditation– n. the act or process of spending time in silent thought

intentionally – adj. be done in a planned or intended manner

child – n. a young person