States will receive an additional $13 billion in federal funding that can be used for programs that include the physical and mental health of students.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes $13.2 billion to be distributed to state education agencies in the same manner as Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funding. The CARES Act funding - specifically the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund - provides an additional opportunity for student wellness programs.
Local school districts must use the funds as “emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation,” according to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education website.
The recent CARES allocation provides more funding for those types of programs. The funding is available to both public and private schools. Schools can use their portion of the $13.2 billion for:
- Existing purposes under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other laws.
- This includes ESSA Title I, Title II and Title IV, Part A
- Purchasing educational technology — “including hardware, software, and connectivity” — for students, including assistive or adaptive devices and equipment.
- Provision of mental health services and support.
Many schools have used their district’s ESSA funding to purchase IHT’s heart rate solutions. Schools use the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor and IHT Spirit System software to teach students to self-manage both their physical fitness and emotional wellness.
The McAllen (Texas) Independent School District used a portion of its ESSA Title IV, Part A funding to purchase IHT ZONE heart rate monitors for each of the district’s middle schools. Coordinator for Health and Physical Education Mario Reyna identified a fitness gap among the district’s middle school students, did his research and developed a proposal to add IHT to his curriculum.
He worked with his district’s funding department and did his research on ESSA’s requirements before submitting his application.
“It’s not as tedious as writing other grants that take longer and may not be as much money,” he said. “It is time-consuming, but it’s worth it because once the funding is there and you get the system you need, hopefully, you use it for a couple of years, so it was worth the wait and the patience.”
The Irving (Texas) ISD also had success accessing the district’s ESSA allocation to add IHT’s solution to its district. Health and PE Coordinator Sandi Cravens saw the heart rate monitors as devices that could motivate Irving’s students to focus more on their health and wellness. She worked closely with her district’s director of federal funding to prepare her application.
Since receiving her initial funding, IHT’s technology has helped students progress, prompting Cravens to apply for and receive three more allocations. She’s expanded her district’s use from middle school to elementary and high school. Students use the IHT ZONE to manage both their physical and emotional wellness.
“Students are learning to self-manage their activities to give their best effort, and teachers are learning to let go a little bit and trust that students will be okay,” Cravens said.
Humble (Texas) ISD Coordinator of PE and Wellness Helen Wagner worked with her district’s director of state and federal funding to secure ESSA funding to add IHT’s heart rate solution to her curriculum. She found that the technology aligned to the district’s overall goals of empowering students to take a leading role in their education.
“It must be student-centered and student-driven,” Wagner said. “Those are the keys to everything. The more kids you can show that you’re going to affect, the greater the return on what the district can get for you.”
Once she showed how the technology would support student development, she kept the funding director - Dr. Jamie Bryson - updated with student progress.
“I invited Dr. Bryson to see the new product and she was delighted to get that chance,” Wagner said. “She loved that.”
Solidifying the buy-in from those who manage the funds can lead to future proposals also receiving funding.
“I’m blessed because my district truly believes in student wellness,” she said. “Make sure they see it all, the difference that what you’ve purchased makes for your students and your program.”