St. Paul Public Schools making plans for $207M in federal COVID-19 relief

School buses for St. Paul Public Schools line up outside a school. (FOX 9)

St. Paul Public Schools is putting a focus on students' mental health as it receives $207 million in COVID-19 federal relief.

"This is really about meeting the needs of students coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Erica Wacker, communications specialist for SPPS.

The money is available through the federal COVID-19 relief act passed in March called "The American Rescue Plan." More than a year into the pandemic, Wacker says the funding will target learning loss, social-emotional and mental health needs.

"I think any parent will tell you their story of how their last school year went and it was really hard for a lot of families," said Wacker.

The district’s proposed strategy includes hiring one to two teachers at every K-8 school to focus on math and reading, more summer and afterschool programs, additional support for students in special education, and establishing a recruitment and retention program to increase the number of teachers of color.

"Every district is really given a lot of flexibility in how to use these in order to recognize that every school is different, every student body is different and they have different needs," said Wacker.

The grant will be spread out over three years. Wacker says it’s the largest and last boost in federal funding stemming from the pandemic.

"We as a district have come up with our proposal on how we're going to spend the money," she said. "We have between today and Sept. 10 to gather feedback from staff, students, and community members and from there the final proposal has to be submitted to the state."