Hofmeister announces school grants totaling $15.2 million

Oklahoma State Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today announced that the Oklahoma State Department of Education has been awarded four federal grants totaling $15.2 million to support districts in meeting the needs of students.

“Oklahoma has long emphasized the importance of a whole-child approach to education with an end goal of ensuring each student has the opportunity to achieve a well-rounded education,” said Hofmeister. “In a unique school year with numerous disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of critical importance that we enhance supports for our students’ social-emotional, nutritional, safety and academic needs. The more than $15 million in programming and services these grants provide will be invaluable in helping Oklahoma meet those goals.”

The largest is a five-year, nearly $9 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency. The Oklahoma AWARE East grant will parallel the work of another five-year grant, Project AWARE, awarded in 2018, for prevention, intervention and treatment services to three western Oklahoma districts – Elk City, Weatherford and Woodward. The Oklahoma AWARE East grant, in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, will adopt a similar integrated mental health approach to nearly 5,000 students and families in three high-need eastern Oklahoma districts – Ada, Atoka and Checotah. Supports will include trauma-informed training for teachers, the addition of a licensed counselor for each district, and a community-based approach to mental health.

A nearly $6 million, five-year ARTech grant awarded by the U. S. Department of Education will create online art classes for students with limited or no access to arts programming. In partnership with the Oklahoma Arts Council, University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma and the Osage and Chickasaw Nations, the grant will enable the creation of eight online courses for Oklahoma students, with 30 teaching artists providing instruction four times a semester to at least six schools each.

In 2018, OSDE received a Get Fit grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase the number of students who are physically active, eat nutritious meals and manage chronic conditions. A $333,000 supplemental Get Fit grant will provide technical assistance to school nurses and physical education teachers on how to safely conduct physical education during COVID for the current fiscal year. Three partner districts – Caney, Colbert and Madill – will also receive additional targeted supports, including CDC COVID professional development, guidance for offering telemedicine, implementation of socially distanced play spaces, and training and technical assistance on social-emotional climate.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture two-year grant of nearly $100,000 will fund the FRESH Project, which seeks to increase fresh produce consumption in schools in southeastern Oklahoma. The project will partner school nutrition staff with farmers to provide fresh, healthy produce in schools to increase student participation in school meals and expand public support for school nutrition programs.

Hofmeister expressed gratitude for the awards.

“The funding provided by these grants will help ease burdens on our schools and families as we educate students amid a global pandemic,” she said.