RIDE Launches $3 Million W.E.L.L. Initiative to Support School Wellness Spaces

Published on Tuesday, May 09, 2023

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – As Rhode Island celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week and observes Mental Health Month, Governor Dan McKee, Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) today announced the launch of the $3 million W.E.L.L. Initiative (Wellness in Education Leads to Learning), which will support the development of wellness spaces in schools statewide and provide funds for accompanying professional development and programming. The design of these spaces allows students and staff to experience a quiet atmosphere and have a chance to decompress. The initiative comes as education systems nationwide reimagine education and school facilities to meet the holistic needs of students in the wake of the pandemic.   

“Every child deserves to attend a 21st century learning environment that not only supports a comprehensive educational experience but also supports the social, emotional, mental, and behavioral health needs of students,” said Governor Dan McKee. “We encourage schools to browse offerings and look forward to the positive impact the W.E.L.L. Initiative will have for students and teachers across Rhode Island.” 

“Any educator can tell you that even in the best of times, students and teachers alike can become overwhelmed at school. RIDE’s W.E.L.L. Initiative ensures that if they do, they have a space available to them that can help meet their needs,” said Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos. “These funds are going to provide oases of calm in our schools, as well as the training and resources necessary for faculty to use them to their full effect.” 

Local education agencies (LEAs) will be able to select from a number of products to support the development of wellness spaces and/or build capacity in existing school spaces. RIDE will purchase furniture and furnishings to be delivered to LEAs to seed or enhance wellness spaces. An LEA with up to 4,000 students would be eligible for $100,000, with larger LEAs eligible for $150,000. Participating LEAs will be provided with $5,000 to conduct professional development for educators to support the award. Additionally, LEAs can apply to use the one-time funds to contribute toward staff and student wellness programming.

“By providing wellness spaces in schools, we send a message to our students that their mental and emotional health is just as important as their academic achievements,” said Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Patti DiCenso. “Wellness spaces can also create a sense of community and support for both our students and staff, which is essential for their overall well-being and success.” 

“All students and educators deserve safe, welcoming, and nurturing environments where they can thrive,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “We recognize the significant need to support our school communities, and RIDE’s W.E.L.L Initiative is just one of many efforts underway to do so. We encourage school communities to browse offerings, think big, and create innovative and welcoming spaces for all to enjoy." 

RIDE has launched an online application with a pre-curated list of items LEAs may purchase. LEAs are asked to submit applications by May 26, 2023 to SBACapitalFund@ride.ri.gov. Approvals will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. $1.5 million in ESSER II (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act) funds will be matched by $900,000 in School Building Authority Capital Funds and $600,000 in Opioid Stewardship funds to provide $3 million in total for this initiative.  

As additional funds become available in FY24, RIDE may offer this opportunity again. Applications and other resources can be found at www.ride.ri.gov/well-initiative. School leaders have been invited to view wellness space offerings at a furniture showroom event scheduled this week. 

"We all know that the best learning occurs in busy, energetic classrooms, but sometimes, teachers and students alike need to bring down that kinetic energy and take some time to relax and recenter,” said 2023 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year and North Providence educator Lisa Leaheey. “The W.E.L.L. Initiative provides schools with amazing resources to build these calming spaces to recharge our social and academic batteries."   

“The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals would like to commend Governor McKee and Commissioner Infante-Green for creating and funding the W.E.L.L. Initiative,” said Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals President Frank Flynn. “Teachers throughout the state have reported a dramatic rise in the need for social, emotional, mental, and behavioral support in our schools. This crisis, which was exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, has had a detrimental effect on teaching and learning in every Rhode Island school district. The creation of wellness spaces in our schools will be an important component in our efforts to support our students and staff.” 

“Addressing mental health and wellness of both students and educators is a critical component to a healthy and safe school community and a priority for our organization,” said National Education Association Rhode Island President Val Lawson. “We must work together to reduce barriers to learning and the W.E.L.L. Initiative supports this goal.” 

To aid local education agencies in addressing mental health challenges in our school communities, RIDE’s Office of Student, Academic, and Community Supports has worked diligently to secure federal funding in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes in addition to various multi-year, on-the-ground efforts to support the wellbeing of Rhode Island’s students and educators. To learn more about RIDE’s notable partnerships with Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence and PURE Edge, and review resources for students, educators, school health professionals, administrators, parents and caregivers, visit RIDE’s School Mental Wellness page.

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