CDC Signs Off On COVID-19 Booster Shots for 5-11 Year-olds (May 20, 2022)

On May 19, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children five to 11 years-old. Those children can now receive  booster shots at least five months after their second dose of the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC sign-off came two days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized booster shots for the 5-11 year-old age group.

Presently, mid-May 2022 data from the CDC shows 28.9% of children in this age group have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. In addition,  CDC data also shows upwards of 15,000 children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized and at least 189 of them have died.

A recent CDC report also revealed that nearly 75 percent of children 11-years-old and under showed evidence of an infection by February 2022, up from 44 percent in December 2021.

To view the CDC press release, click here.

Source: NBC News

HHS Awards Nearly $25 Million to Expand Access to School-Based Health Services (May 6, 2022)

On May 3, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded nearly $25 million to improve and strengthen access to school-based health services in communities across the country. Awards will support local partnerships between schools and health centers to provide children and youth the comprehensive physical and mental health care they need.

The awards were made to 125 HRSA-funded health centers that deliver comprehensive, high-quality primary health care services to individuals and families through school-based sites in underserved communities.

Health centers will use this funding to reduce disparities and improve access to care by increasing the number of young people receiving essential health care, including mental health services. Health centers will also use these funds for activities such as community and patient outreach, health education, and translation support.

A recent HRSA study published in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA Pediatrics  found that between 2016 and 2020, the number of children ages 3-17 years diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29 percent and those with depression by 27 percent. As HHS recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month in May, this investment will help provide critical mental health services directly to students on site at their schools.

The May 6th announcement advances the joint effort of Secretary Becerra and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to expand school-based health services as outlined in their joint letter to Governors in March 2022. It is also part of the ongoing HHS-wide effort to strengthen our nation’s mental health.

The $25 million awarded today builds on the $5 million investment in school-based care that HRSA awarded to health centers in September 2021 to expand access to school-based services.

One in nine children in the United States accesses primary health care through a HRSA-funded health center. In 2020, 41 percent of health centers provided services to children and youth at over 3,200 school-based sites.

To locate a HRSA-supported health center, visit: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/.

Expanding Head Start Services to SNAP Recipients (May 6, 2022)

On April 21, 2022, Office of Head Start at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Director  Dr. Bernadine Futrell announced that the Office of Head Start (OHS) is including receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the interpretation of “public assistance” when determining Head Start eligibility and in turn issued ACF-IM-OHS-22-03, which outlines the inclusion of SNAP benefits for Head Start eligibility determinations. The policy change, effective immediately, allows Head Start programs to reach families better, minimize the burden on families seeking public assistance, and coordinate benefit programs so that families eligible for one program can more easily participate in other services for which they qualify.

According to DR. Futrell, “Adding SNAP is essential in addressing any barriers to equitable access to Head Start services for children and families. It also supports the goals of President Biden’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government.”

OHS expects this guidance to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens for programs and families. For example, most young children in SNAP households are already income-eligible for Head Start services. Before this decision by OHS, families had to document their income eligibility for both SNAP and Head Start programs, which created a lot of back and forth for families and Head Start grant recipients.

The policy decision also amplifies the Head Start mission of serving those who can most benefit from services, especially as you are actively recruiting and enrolling families for the 2022-23 program year.

OHS is providing a resource collection to provide support in implementing the policy change, including responses to anticipated questions and an updated Eligibility Verification form.

To view the press release, click here.

OCR Requests Public Comment on Section 504 (May 6, 2022)

On May 6, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced its request for public comments regarding general feedback on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for students with disabilities in K-12 and higher education institutions. 

OCR is seeking public comment to obtain information for a proposal to amend regulations for Section 504. Following this step, there will be an additional round of public input before being finalized by the USDE.

The Section 504 regulations have remained largely unchanged years since their release in 1977. The USDE said the review of Section 504 effectiveness aligns with the President’s Unity Agenda, which includes reforms for mental health support in elementary and secondary schools and colleges.

For more from K-12 Dive, click here.
To view the Unity Agenda, click here.

USDE Grant Program Invests in Highly Effective Educators and Addresses Teacher Shortage; Focuses on Equity, Diversity, and Increasing the Educator Pipeline (April 28, 2022)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is continuing to take action to support and invest in the teaching profession and address the teacher shortage many schools and districts across the country face. The Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program is now accepting applications for efforts that increase the pipeline of highly effective educators.

The SEED program will award $65 million to support the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators. These grants also will enable recipients to develop, expand, and evaluate practices that can serve as models that can be sustained, replicated, and scaled. This program is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader commitment to supporting targeted efforts that will provide comprehensive, high-quality pathways into the profession, such as residency and Grow Your Own programs, and evidence-based professional development all focused on building and supporting a more diverse educator pipeline and combating the teacher shortage nationally.

As states, districts, and schools are working hard to address the impact of COVID-19 on students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs, many of them are facing significant challenges in attracting and retaining teachers. Preexisting teacher shortages in critical areas such as special education; multilingual education; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); career and technical education; and early childhood education have only been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—directly impeding student access to educational opportunity.

The SEED program fosters the use of rigorous evidence-based practices in selecting and implementing strategies and interventions that support educators’ development across the continuum of their careers. Support for educator preparation programs and high-quality professional development are vital to ensure that all students have access to well-prepared and qualified teachers, principals, and other school leaders. These programs invest in educators who are effective and likely to stay in the profession. Research shows that existing educator shortages disproportionately impact students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, and, often, rural communities.

To learn more about the SEED program, please visit: https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-discretionary-grants-support-services/effective-educator-development-programs/supporting-effective-educator-development-grant-program/. The FY 2022 SEED grant competition will close on June 3, 2022.

To read the USDE press release, click here.