CLARK COUNTY — Additional mental health services and school-level reopening plans were among the items approved at Greater Clark County Schools’ Tuesday evening board meeting.

The Greater Clark County Board unanimously approved a partnership with Centerstone to expand mental health services in schools. This would staff 16 schools with one master level therapist and/or one family support specialist.

The board also unanimously approved the individual reopening plans for schools, which were submitted by principals at each school in the district and then approved by the Clark County Health Department. Wednesday is the first day of school for the district.

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

With the Centerstone partnership, at least one of the therapists or family support specialists would be present every day in the designated schools, and Centerstone would provide mental health services for 545 hours per month across the schools, including times when school is not in session.

The services would cover 11 elementary schools, four middle schools and one high school for about 34 hours per school each month, or eight hours per week.

Superintendent Mark Laughner said the partnership will nearly double the amount of mental health services in the district, and it allows the school to reach out to students and families who are struggling with social and emotional health.

“It allows us to get a therapist or a counselor to them, and also really help the parent in how to get through whatever crisis they’re going through,” he said. “Because ultimately, a lot of that ends up being brought into the school, and it can be disruptive to the environment — it’s certainly disruptive to the life of that student, and we want to make sure they get back on the right path as fast as possible so they can be successful in school and have a good home life, too.”

Greater Clark will be using $179,360 in funding from a Federal Title IV grant for Social Emotional Learning, a donation from Clark Circuit Court 3 and Medicaid funding to support the expanded mental health services.

“If they have their insurance, they will be billed through Centerstone and their health insurance provider, and if not, this grant picks up the billing on that,” Laughner said. “It allows us to reach all of our students, whether they have health insurance or not.”

The 545 hours per month would be divided among the schools once Centerstone is able to provide staff for all Greater Clark County Schools.

Laughner said the COVID-19 pandemic has likely contributed to issues with students’ mental health, and he is glad to have additional services available during this time. Services will also be available for those learning virtually.

“I think it’s important we have this in place, because, short-term, I think we’re going to see an increase in social and emotional issues as kids return because of what’s been going on over the past six months,” he said.

SCHOOL REOPENING PLANS

The Greater Clark board had already given the OK to the district’s overall reopening plan, but the plans approved by the board Tuesday included specific details for each building, addressing issues such as social distancing and sanitation.

The plans include protocols for lunch, arrival/dismissal and sanitizing classrooms between classes. For example, high schools will be spreading tables out into hallways and other areas to allow for social distancing, and at some elementary schools, students will sit six feet apart from each other at desks to eat lunch in their classrooms.

There will be assigned seats on buses and classrooms, which would help with contact tracing if it is necessary, Laughner said.

“Each school has worked their plan based on their building and the number of students they have and the size of their cafeterias and hallways and all that,” Laughner said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also unanimously approved a contract agreement with Jacobs Group, Inc. for the construction of the new Greater Clark County Schools Transportation Center. The board approved the bid from the company at its May 26 meeting. The $2,730,588 contract includes service building renovations, landscaping and sidewalks.

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