The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread effects on schools across the country. The U.S. federal government has been providing relief through the CARES Act, which provides “economic assistance for American workers and families, small businesses, and preserves jobs for American industries” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury website.

Part of that assistance goes through state capitols — in Virginia, that means Richmond — and allocated to public schools according to their needs based on the Title I federal Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 

“Basically, it’s based on free and reduced lunch numbers. So, this grant was given to us based on need,” said Appomattox County Public Schools (ACPS) Superintendent Annette Bennett.

ACPS has been allocated a grant amount of $443,804.74, according to Bennett — the large portion of which would be used toward funding its mental health services for students. The rest goes toward COVID-19-related expenditures such as personal protective equipment, face coverings and cleaning supplies. 

“It’s given absolutely to support any losses that we’ve had or expenses that we’ve had related to COVID and shutting down schools or reopening schools and all of that,” Bennett said.

Before ACPS can make use of the grant funds, Bennett said the money must be appropriated by the Appomattox County Board of Supervisors.

ACPS has been providing mental health services, through an agency called Family Insight, for students of all ages who struggle with emotional and behavioral problems. Several agency staff — Therapeutic Day Treatment (TDT) counselors — are placed in each of the four county schools, which allows teachers to focus on teaching and helps to keep those children in school while dealing with their issues. As Bennett stated, before mental health services were provided, disruptive students were simply sent home or expelled from school. But the implementation of mental health counselors has made a positive impact.

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