Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced $675 million in funding for student wellness programs across the state over the next two years, $32 million of which is expected to come to districts in the Valley. 

DeWine and State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Paolo DeMaria, launched a new Student Wellness and Success website that provides resources for schools as they plan how to best provide for students' wellness needs.

The funding will help schools initiate or continue programs specifically designed to meet students' physical and mental health needs. 

While these funds were intentionally designed to give school districts maximum flexibility, Governor DeWine is encouraging schools to establish new programs and expand on existing behavioral and physical health care services in schools and wrap supports, such as mentoring and afterschool programs, around our students. 

Here in the Valley, Youngstown City Schools and Warren City Schools are expected to receive the most significant amounts over 2020-2021.

Youngstown is expected to receive $2.9 million, while Warren will receive $2.7 million. 

Overall, Trumbull County Schools are expected to receive $12 million, Mahoning County Schools will receive $11 million, and Columbiana County Schools will total $8 million. 

Youngstown Schools CEO, Justin Jennings, says the money will be instrumental in carrying out several programs. 

"Every little bit helps and our focus, of course, first and foremost, is educating our scholars. But when you have someone who's homeless who comes in, who has not eaten that night and different things like that, it definitely factors into the classroom," Jennings explained. 

Part of the funding is aimed at helping students who may be experiencing homelessness. 

"We have had a number of homeless students who have come through our district over the last few years, and that number has increased," said Warren City Schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro. "We try to provide transportation to help with the transition. A homeless family obviously has a lot of situations that they're facing. So, we're trying to provide consistent education in the buildings where they're at, transportation and other supports that they may need in order to maximize their learning." 

It's a problem Jennings says they see in Youngstown as well. 

"Our focus has really been on not only homelessness but also truancy as well because it's a by-product of homelessness," he said. "We've had students this year, who you know, went to one school, but because of their homelessness, they had to go to another one, but want to stay at their home school. So this gives us an opportunity to provide stability for those scholars wouldn't have transportation or things like that. So this gives us an opportunity to provide stability in their schools."

The money can also go to help schools renovating existing schools' spaces to turn into health clinics.

"We have the spaces in place. I think it's time to analyze how we're using them and how we can better those spaces to give better access to care for our kids and not just physical care but with mental health and well being," Chiaro said. 

"We've already been working with Mercy to provide clinics. Not only clinics for just physical health, but dental and vision and those different things," Jennings added. "We have a lot of mobile things, but we want to get some things that help not only our scholars and our buildings, but also the community as well — so developing some health centers in our elementary or in our high schools that we can use in our community. That we can use when our schools are closed. Those areas can be open to serve our community as well."

Chiaro said Warren would also likely use the funds to help continue initiatives they already have in the works. 

"We already have an Akron Children's nurse in our pre-K through eight schools and a pilot program this year to have a nurse practitioner working with our students to give them better access to health care. If they're sick, we can get them taken care of if they don't have a primary care physician or a pediatrician. Get them back in the classroom, take care of their needs," he explained. 

While several schools in the Valley have been working to institute programs that would fall under the Wellness Program initiatives, Traci Hostetler, the Superintendent of the Mahoning County Educational Services Center says many have had to "penny pinch" to find the money to start the programs. 

A fact that Chiaro admits. 

"We've had to push things back a year or two. Maybe instead of buying three busses, we only buy one bus," he said. "Because we have to look at the needs of the child in front of us right now." 

Jennings says the money will also be crucial in providing training and help for staff members in the schools. 

"But this money will also give us the opportunity to train our staff as well. One of the things we've talked about since I've been here since August 1st is cultural competency. It often starts from our scholars to our educators. But our scholars have to realize who's in front of them as well," he said. 

Jennings said, "Our teachers and our administrators, they get secondary trauma. They take home the things that our scholars sometimes bring to the classroom because everyone that's involved in Youngstown they care about what's going on. They care about our scholars, and when you have someone that's homeless or hungry or different things like that, you take those things home with you. We're really looking to service our scholars, but service our staff members as well, who sometimes have the effects of that secondary trauma."

Overall, Jennings and Chiaro say the money will benefit the Valley as a whole and help the students of the area. 

"We're mom, we're dad, we're grandparent, we're guardian, we're psychologist, we're social worker. We talk about educating the whole child, and that's what we have to do, and this money will help us be able to educate the whole child," Jennings said. 

The anticipated funding breakdown for each Valley school district can be found below: 

Columbiana County: 

  •  Beaver Local SD  $ 1,078,601
  • Columbiana Ex Vill SD $ 203,563
  • Crestview Local SD  $ 792,238
  • East Liverpool City SD  $ 1,241,358
  • East Palestine City SD  $ 904,660
  • Leetonia Ex Vill SD $ 442,994
  • Lisbon Ex Vill SD  $ 882,281
  • Salem City SD $ 1,233,966
  • Southern Local SD $ 457,931
  • United Local SD $ 755,634
  • Wellsville Local SD $ 411,316

Mahoning County:

  • Austintown Local SD $ 2,274,840
  • Boardman Local SD $ 988,940
  • Campbell City SD $ 633,056
  • Canfield Local SD $ 306,451
  • Jackson-Milton Local SD $ 558,054
  • Lowellville Local SD $ 207,811
  • Poland Local SD $ 151,845
  • Sebring Local SD $ 246,036
  • South Range Local SD  $ 172,347
  • Springfield Local SD  $ 384,720
  • Struthers City SD  $ 1,063,673
  • West Branch Local SD  $ 1,242,876
  • Western Reserve Local SD  $ 300,123
  • Youngstown City SD  $ 2,940,214

Trumbull County: 

  • Bloomfield-Mespo Local SD $ 198,118
  • Bristol Local SD $ 389,368
  • Brookfield Local SD $ 833,933
  • Champion Local SD  $ 301,212
  • Girard City SD $ 1,032,386
  • Howland Local SD $ 362,166
  • Hubbard Ex Vill SD $ 705,081
  • Joseph Badger Local SD $ 290,254
  • La Brae Local SD $ 805,805
  • Lakeview Local SD $ 430,837
  • Liberty Local SD  $ 636,742
  • Lordstown Local SD $ 217,561
  • Maplewood Local SD $ 75,664
  • Mathews Local SD $ 401,074
  • McDonald Local SD $ 468,782
  • Newton Falls Ex Vill SD $ 586,041
  • Niles City SD $ 1,349,005
  • Southington Local SD $ 93,316
  • Warren City SD $ 2,729,193
  • Weathersfield Local SD  $ 493,687