HAMILTON COUNTY — Hamilton Southeastern Schools has received the largest grant in its history, and the money is going to help bring more mental health professionals into the district.
The $5,762,815 grant from the U.S. Department of Education will be used to recruit, prepare, hire and train school counselors, school psychologists and school social workers over the next 5 years.
The American School Counselor Association recommends 1:250 ratio of school counselors-to-students. Currently, HSE says the ratio is 1:850 elementary school students. High school student ratios range from 1:400-450.
The district recently hired school social workers at its junior high schools (grades 7-8). The social workers provide individual and group support to students, parents and teachers.
Lawson says school counselors are normally the first point of contact, and parental consent is needed for social workers to work with a student.
With the grant money, the school plans to also hire social workers at elementary and intermediate (grades 5-6) schools.
"That has been really, really helpful in students who maybe need a little bit more support than a school counselor can provide," Brooke Lawson, mental health and school counseling coordinator, said. "It'll really increase the continuum of support that we're able to offer students at school."
Since the grant is for five years, Lawson says different staff members will be added each year.
"[We're looking for] somebody who really understands that their ability to support the whole child. When kids come to school dealing with mental health struggles or challenges, it really does affect their ability to achieve academically," Lawson said. "We're really excited to be able to offer a lot more support to students."
The district says it will begin looking for candidates in the coming weeks.