Lawrence school district to apply for grant to hire school-based social workers

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Lawrence school board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood said she had tears in her eyes Monday “because this is a dream come true for me to see more social workers in schools.”

The Lawrence school board on Monday unanimously approved the district’s intent to apply for a federal grant that would help the district and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center hire 26 social workers by 2028.

In alignment with the grant’s purpose, the district will look to “recruit, hire and retain 16 racially and ethnically diverse general education social workers” by the 2028-29 academic year, according to the board-approved proposal. They’d be based in schools and targeting rural, low socioeconomic status and Hispanic students. 

Beginning in 2025, the district plans to add four social workers each year to incrementally reach its goal. 

The district currently collaborates with Bert Nash on the WRAP (Wellness, Resources, Access and Prevention) program, which in January expanded to offer free, ongoing care for students who qualify.

Board Past President Shannon Kimball said she’s aware the district has had trouble this year fully staffing its WRAP positions. Mental Health Coordinator Kiley Luckett said she believes the grant will help fix that.

“The district has benefited greatly from Bert Nash and not compensating Bert Nash,” Luckett said. “And that is not always sustainable. I think the best thing that we can do is find ways to support Bert Nash through funding. Speaking to our grant, that’s going to be a great way to do it and increase staffing.”

Kiley Luckett, at left, Sarah Bishop and Annas Boyer present to the Lawrence school board on Monday, April 22, 2024. (Screenshot)

Additionally, the district is considering ways it can collaborate with the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Washburn and Ottawa universities, and Johnson County and Kansas City Kansas community colleges to fill mental health support roles.

Within the same timeline as the district plans to hire social workers, Bert Nash hopes to add 10 more WRAP therapists to serve in Lawrence schools.

Although the Lawrence school district is leading the grant, all Douglas County public schools are meant to benefit, according to Luckett. Another six WRAP therapists, who would be employees of Bert Nash, could serve Eudora, Baldwin City and Perry-Lecompton schools.

Luckett said early intervention when students show mental health concerns is crucial and that the grant can support that effort. Currently, every school in the district has a dedicated mental health team. Luckett said she hopes her future work will better connect those teams to create a “systemic approach.”


If and when the district receives the grant, Luckett will reallocate 60% of her job for one year to working on the project; then for the following four years, she’d reallocate 30% of her job to the project. The district’s facilitator of recruitment and retention would also devote 25% of their time to that work in the first year, and 10% of their time over the following four years. Grant money would pay for that time.

Luckett said the grant application closes on Tuesday, April 30, and the district plans to submit theirs on Thursday, April 25. 

The proposed start date for funding is Jan. 1, 2025 and set to last through Dec. 29, 2029 if the district is awarded, according to Sarah Bishop, founder and CEO of Coneflower Consulting, a Lawrence company that has provided services to Bert Nash, and who Bert Nash hired to work with them and the district on this grant.

View the grant proposal attached to the agenda item on BoardDocs.

In other business

• Board policy on school closures: The board on Monday unanimously approved on second reading a policy revision about how the district can close school buildings. School board members voted as part of their consent agenda – a list of items that are generally considered routine and are approved with one motion unless a board member or the superintendent asks to pull something for further discussion.

The revision brings the district policy in line with Kansas House Bill 2138, which went into effect July 1. The school board will still be required to hold public hearings on proposed building closures.

Added to the policy is information stating that “If a valid request is made not later than 45 days after the adoption of a resolution to close a school building or buildings, the state board of education shall conduct an administrative review of the resolution and issue an advisory determination … to the school district that states whether the school district’s resolution is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.”

The state statute clarifies that such a review would occur “if the state board receives a request for administrative review signed by at least 5% of the registered voters of such school district who are dissatisfied with such resolution.”

“No resolution adopted in regard to a school closing shall be effective until, at a minimum, the 45-day time period has elapsed without a request for administrative review,” the policy revision states.

See the approved revision attached to the agenda item on BoardDocs.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Note: This post has been clarified from a previous version.

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