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School board approves mental health app, pre-K funding


The Cumberland County Board of Education met Tuesday, during which board members approved a mental health app and allocated one-time state funding for improvements at 29 Cumberland County preschools. 

Student mental health app

  • What happened: The board approved a three-year $523,041 contract with Alongside, a mental health startup that created a mobile app aiming to support student mental health through resources like trained chatbots, journaling and mental health videos. Alongside is intended to supplement schools’ counseling teams and does not provide licensed medical care. In cases of severe mental health issues, the chatbot will connect students with CCS counselors during school hours, and with emergency services and resources outside of school hours.
  • Why it matters: The contract approval comes in the midst of a national youth mental health crisis that has worsened during the pandemic. 

NC Pre-K funding

  • What happened: The board approved a one-time special allocation of $111,962 in pre-K funding; Cumberland County Schools will work with the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County to allocate the money for the county’s 29 NC Pre-K classrooms. The funding is part of Gov. Roy Cooper’s $8 million in federal funding to assist pre-K programs statewide. 
  • Why it matters: The funding will be used for upgrades to classroom services such as equipment, facility maintenance and curriculum materials.

Public forum

One speaker, Sophia Moore, spoke to the board about unresolved health and safety issues. Moore worked as a care review consultant for Cumberland County Schools from 2018 and 2021. She said, however, she’s been unable to return to work because of ongoing health issues she claims were caused by exposure to toxic air pollutants at T.C. Berrien Elementary School, which was closed as a school in 2022 because of structural, health and safety problems. 

The building is currently being used by the Cumberland County schools staff, the Fayetteville Observer reported

Moore said she has not received any outreach from school officials since her story was publicized in the Fayetteville Observer in August. 

“To this date, I have not received an apology and this matter has not been resolved,” Moore said. 

She’s hoping the board will make a concerted effort to examine and rectify potential environmental hazards in schools. Moore said the issue was larger than herself; poor air quality has been linked to lower educational outcomes among schoolchildren. 

Other items approved Tuesday: 

  • Policy changes: Minor changes to policies related to payroll, contracts, purchasing, student searches and staff misconduct reporting.
  • School repair fund: Approval of funding for repairs to Hefner Elementary School’s Cooling Tower as recommended by the Finance Committee.
  • Landscaping contract: Renewal of a one-year contract with GF Turf & Landscape for sports field maintenance at a cost of $170,400.
  • Filter replacement contract: Approval of a contract with Supreme Filter Service for filter replacement services in 2024 as recommended by the Auxiliary Services Committee.
  • Surplus property acquisition: Acceptance of Pauline Jones Surplus Property from Cumberland County as recommended by the Auxiliary Services Committee. This includes three “plots of land” connected to the property.
  • Vision support services: Approval of a Professional Services Agreement with Equal Eyes Vision for two additional support representatives to provide services to visually impaired and deaf or hard of hearing students for the remainder of the school year, as recommended by the Student Support Services Committee.
  • Cumberland County Emergency Services: Approval of a 10-year contract with the county’s emergency services Swift Water Rescue Team to use the Max Abbott Middle School, at no charge, during times of emergency to house up to 50 first responders and their equipment.
  • ACT prep services renewal: Approval of a one-year $181,927 contract renewal with MasteryPrep ACT to provide test preparation services to students in CCS. The program will include a “Boot Camp” program, subject-specific lesson sets and a semester-long test preparation curriculum.
  • Low-performing schools improvement plan: Approval of the yearly low-performing schools improvement plan. Each school district must submit its improvement plans to the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction by Dec. 8, according to CCS.

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608. 

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