GCS Awarded Nearly $7 Million to Support Two Initiatives
September 1, 2023 – Two grants totaling $6.7 million will enhance Guilford County Schools’ (GCS) mental health supports and expand telehealth access.
Superintendent Whitney Oakley made the announcement during a keynote address marking her first year in office. Dr. Oakley is the first GCS superintendent from Guilford County, and throughout her first year, has met with thousands of families, students, employees, community and business leaders and led numerous charges to support and advance the district.
After hearing their hopes and dreams for the district, she and a transition team formulated Better Together, a new strategic direction for the district. The framework consists of four focus areas: Accelerate learning, recruit, retain and reward top talent, strengthen health, wellness and safety in schools and prepare students for the world. Investments into these focus areas have already begun to pay off.
In response to nationally recognized learning recovery efforts, last school year, GCS provided 305,000 high-dosage tutoring sessions to 11,641 students, tripling the number of high-dosage tutoring sessions and doubling the number of students served from the prior year. Additionally, more than 7,000 high school students took advantage of learning hubs. Thanks to federal funding, this year, the district will expand learning hubs to select middle schools.
In May, Dr. Oakley called on businesses, families, organizations and community members to get engaged with the district. They have responded! The High Point Community Foundation has launched an early literacy initiative aligned with the district’s nationally recognized high-dosage tutoring program. Today, the foundation is making a generous donation of $100,000 -- seed money it will work to grow into a permanent endowment to fund ongoing academic support for High Point students.
During the address, Oakley emphasized the district’s commitment to strengthening health, wellness and safety in schools. Additional resources to support children in and out of the classroom will be offered during the school year.
After successfully piloting school-based telehealth clinics, thanks to a $3 million grant from the Oak Foundation, GCS will continue its partnership with Cone Health, Guilford County Commissioners and the Guilford Education Alliance to expand telehealth clinics. This funding will enable the district to phase in telehealth services for all 51 Title I elementary schools. “These clinics are making a real difference for students – preserving instructional time and relieving a burden on working parents,” Superintendent Oakley said.
Like other school districts across the United States, last year, GCS saw an increase in student mental health needs and inappropriate school behavior because of the trauma many young people experienced during the pandemic. Last school year, students and staff completed over 10,000 therapy sessions provided by the district’s in-person and virtual resources. Maintaining access to these supports will continue to address the pandemic's lingering impacts on our community.
A $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will bolster the district’s efforts to address mental health. GCS, in partnership with the Kellin Foundation and North Carolina for Community and Justice (NCCJ) will launch a pilot program in several high schools. This initiative is designed to enhance how the district identifies and addresses mental health needs with parental consent by removing stigmas and barriers around mental health and raising awareness of available mental health supports and resources.
Internally and externally, strategic alignment and expansion are vital to the success of the district, and GCS has begun to expand its community footprint. As we prepare to launch our new Community Education Center at the Gateway Research Park, the district will establish two new community offices. These offices will be located at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and at Congdon Yards, in partnership with Business High Point. Both locations will house our Community, Equity and School engagement teams. These new partnerships and locations will allow community teams, administrators, teachers and staff to have a stronger presence throughout the county as GCS works to engage the community to support our schools because we are One Guilford, Better Together.