SPS receives $285K counselor corps grant

Special to the News-Star

Shawnee Public Schools has received a $285,000 grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to hire school counselors and school-based mental health professionals.

To help Oklahoma schools meet the needs of children in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, OSDE is using $35.7 million in federal relief to fund the grant program called the Oklahoma School Counselor Corps to more than 180 school districts statewide.

"The Counselor Corps grant will continue our district's long-term goal of fully supporting our students' wellbeing through wraparound services," said Dr. April Grace, SPS superintendent. "This award will help bring our counselor-student ratio in alignment with national standards."

"We are thankful for the additional investments made by Supt. Joy Hofmeister and OSDE," Grace said.

“Schools have wrestled with inadequate numbers of counselors and mental health professionals for far too long,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Hofmeister. “Oklahoma children suffer from a higher rate of trauma than children in most other states, and the pandemic has only exacerbated such adversity. These grants can bring transformational change to schools, some of which have not had a single school counselor. With academic success dependent on student well-being, this marks a critical investment for our students.”

Oklahoma’s current student-to-school counselor ratio is 411-to-1, but the American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250-to-1.

Districts applied for Oklahoma School Counselor Corps grants to fund approximately 50% of the cost of the salary and benefits of qualified positions. In the application, districts were able to specify exact needs for school counselors, licensed school-based mental health professionals, social workers, recreational therapists and/or contract for eligible positions or services. The grant will fund the positions for three years or through the 2023-24 school year.

A total of 181 districts are receiving the grants. The Counselor Corps is the largest initiative under Ready Together Oklahoma: An Action Plan for Supporting Students Through the Pandemic and Beyond. The OSDE launched the recovery plan in May with online resources to support schools and communities as it determines the best uses of federal relief funds.