Merski, Harkins: Erie public schools to share $2M in federal funding to launch student health initiative

Will work with state Health Department to implement Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model

ERIE, Sept. 1 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today that Erie public schools will share $2 million in federal funding to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model – a comprehensive framework to improve student learning and health.

The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding will be awarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Erie’s public schools through 2028 to create a template that other schools throughout the state can adopt. 

“As an educator, I know that the children who enter our doors every day are a product of their families and their communities,” Merski said. “This federal funding to the state Department of Health and Erie’s public schools will help us to integrate and collaborate to improve that mind-body connection.

“We know that a child who is physically healthy and emotionally and socially well-adjusted performs better in school. Using a ‘whole child’ approach has been shown to increase student achievement and lower maladaptive behaviors such as truancy, tardiness and discipline issues.”

Harkins said, “Investments in student health like the universal free school breakfast program are critical, but proper nutrition is only part of the equation. With this new funding and guidance from the Department of Health, Erie schools can become a leader in implementing a new approach to student health and learning that enlists the health sector, schools, our community, families and students themselves. We are extremely excited to lead the way for students here at home and throughout the state.”

The new funding will allow Erie public schools to begin implementing the WSCC model in the 2023-24 school year by hiring the district’s first wellness coordinator. Over the next five school years, the district will reinstate its district wellness council, strengthen community partnerships, and annually assess and improve health policies, programs, practices and curriculum in the areas of physical activity, school nutrition, school health services and emotional well-being.   

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