Federal Funds to Support Learning Loss and Student Mental Health

Frisco ISD released plans this week to spend $6.1 million in federal grant funds on additional academic, mental health and social-emotional supports for students.

The money comes from a coronavirus relief law passed by Congress in March and will make an impact for students over each of the next three school years. 

The District prioritized expanded services for students after receiving public input from several stakeholder groups, including parents, staff and community members, regarding how to allocate the additional funds. Respondents to a District survey most highly favored and expressed their desire for spending to support student mental health and behavior needs. In addition, per grant requirements, at least 20% of the District’s allocation must go towards evidence-based interventions to address learning loss.

Frisco ISD plans to invest in a variety of strategies and solutions starting in the 2021-22 school year to meet the needs of students and families, especially those who are especially vulnerable or were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This includes:

Academic Supports

  • Investments in personnel to provide increased academic support to students both during the school day and after school. Efforts will focus on rigor and unfinished learning of essential grade-level content.

  • Free credit recovery and expanded summer programming, including targeted intervention in math and reading

  • Additional services for special education students who may have lost learning or skills as a result of the pandemic. This may include speech therapy, physical therapy, remediation, etc. 

  • Promotion review committees to develop individualized academic recovery plans for middle school students

Mental Health, Behavior and Social-Emotional Supports 

  • Increased access to counseling for students and staff with mental health needs

  • Two mental health transition specialists to assist students returning to in-person instruction, especially those with Section 504 plans or who may have been hospitalized or otherwise impacted by mental health issues during the pandemic

  • Supplemental pay for staff who respond after-hours to alerts about the possible risk for student self-harm 

  • Comprehensive support services for at-risk students and families in need, including increased access to social workers and community resources to assist with food, housing, health care, etc.  

  • Continuation and expansion of truancy tribunals to improve student attendance and grades while connecting families to District and community resources

  • FISD mentoring coordinator to match students and families with needed services

  • Expansion of the Ethos mentoring program to additional campuses to help students with motivation and self-esteem

  • District-wide training on restorative practices and common language and protocols to prevent and respond to behavior concerns

Funding for these initiatives comes from the American Rescue Plan, the third of three federal coronavirus relief bills. The Texas Education Agency used the first two rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) funds to replace state aid that would have otherwise gone to Texas school districts, so ESSER III is the only one that provides additional funding to FISD. The District must apply for the funding and meet specific grant requirements. 

Entitlements are based on each district’s percentage of Title I students. Because Frisco ISD has a relatively low percentage of students from low-income households, the District is receiving a smaller amount of ESSER funds than many districts, some of which are receiving tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

To compensate for this, the Texas Legislature included a provision this spring in HB 1525 which will provide additional funding to school districts who are receiving little to no ESSER funds. As a result, Frisco ISD may receive up to an additional $44 million over a two-year period. It is still unclear how those dollars must be spent or when they will be provided, but Frisco ISD has designed its ESSER spending plan to be expanded if and when those additional funds become available. 

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