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Local school districts receive federal funds for social-emotional support

Texas school districts can apply to receive their allocation of the $11.2 billion in federal funds.

WACO, Texas — This week many Central Texas students returned to school. Aside from addressing learning loss due to the pandemic, local school districts are working on providing additional mental health services and support. 

Texas school districts can apply to receive their portion of the $11.2 billion from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funds (ESSER III) to help with challenges as a result of the pandemic. 

In June, the Texas Education Agency approved the Waco Independent School District's application. Waco ISD is receiving a total of $49.9 million.

Temple ISD is getting $25.6 million. Killeen ISD is receiving $86.3 million.

Click here for a list of the allocation amounts for Texas schools. 

Waco ISD is using $3.78 million of the funds for social-emotional support resources. The resources will be available for students, but also for teachers and staff as well. 

This means they're getting six additional counselors, an additional social-emotional learning coordinator who will be working directly with counselors, and more teacher training on how to address mental health. 

This year Waco ISD partnered with Care Solace to help connect students, staff, and families with mental health resources online. 

The transition back into the classroom may not be so easy for many kids.

Katie Chadwell, a child and adolescent therapist at the Klaras Center for Families, said since the pandemic started she has seen many kids struggling with their mental health. She said she is only expecting more as the school year progresses.

"They are learning social skills, their brains are developing, they are learning feelings and how to share those things with people and when to share those things, and then you add this really big thing of unsafety on top of it with Covid and I think for kids it can be extremely overwhelming," Chadwell said.

Some kids have been doing virtual learning since March 2020. Chadwell said they may be feeling overwhelmed returning to a classroom. 

Then there's the other side of that. Kids who returned to school in person last year might be used to smaller class sizes.

"It's really hard for them to know what's coming next and so then that adds anxiety on top of all of the other stuff that's already going on in their brains," Chadwell said.

She recommends parents give their kids some grace, especially right now as they try to get back into the swing of things. 

"Sometimes when kids are anxious we'll see grades drop and parent's initial reaction is going to be why did you bring home a bad grade. So instead of jumping to that conclusion of thinking your kid is not studying or not trying, take time to ask them the question are you okay," Chadwell said.

It's helpful for parents to communicate with teachers according to Chadwell. She said you should let them know if your child is having a hard time so they can help connect you to the right resources

"If you notice your kid is having anxiety let the teacher know about that. Let them know if the kid has coping skills or things at home that help them calm down," Chadwell said.

Click here for the Klaras Center for families and to get connected to resources within the community.