The Fort Payne Improvement Authority in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority presented $20,000 to the Fort Payne City Schools this week for funding mental health and other COVID related issues and to support the Liberty Learning program.
FPIA General Manager Mike Shirey said that when the public health emergency began in the spring, TVA established a Community Care Fund to help local communities. The fund specified that TVA would match contributions from local power companies to provide aid to organizations in support of individuals and businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Improvement Authority is one of 154 local power companies that purchase and distribute electricity from TVA to serve about 8,500 customers in DeKalb County.
“In response to a favorable financial performance, [TVA] came back this summer and introduced phase two, so that’s where these funds come from,” Shirey said. “On behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the board of directors of the Fort Payne Improvement Authority, here’s $20,000 to support mental health and other COVID-related issues and to support the Liberty Learning program.”
“I thank you on behalf of the Fort Payne City Schools,” Superintendent Jim Cunningham told Shirey as he accepted the check. “We are aggressively addressing mental health. This past year, the state decided to appropriate $40,000 for a coordinator for mental health for the school system We already had a mental health specialist and are about to have two mental health professionals in the city school system. This will help us not only with everyday struggles that students are having but also issues resulting from the pandemic. We’ve been very fortunate. This has been very positive having mental health professionals to address our students’ needs.”
Cunningham also referenced “liberty learning” to facilitate active civics and character programs in K-12 classrooms to encourage greater ownership in the future of community and country. The initiative is meant to increase knowledge of financial responsibility and career readiness so students graduate feeling empowered and more connected to others.
“Liberty Learning has been fantastic seeing our students appreciate the local heroes and the need for more liberty and to be a patriot to appreciate what we have here. It’s really been a great program,” he said.
Some portion of the funds may go to support technology to sanitize facilities.
“Any funding we do not use for mental health needs will go to fund masks, shields and chemicals we might use to address the flu in the schools,” Cunningham said. “We’ve put in air scrubbers and electrostatic machines to kill the coronavirus and sanitize every classroom, office, cafeteria, hallways, buses and gymnasium at every school. These funds will be used for very positive purposes in student safety. We do have positive [coronavirus] cases, but it’s not often. We have had to quarantine students, but we’ve seen [an average student attendance for in-person classroom instruction] of 95 percent.”
Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Tennessee Valley Authority, a corporation owned by the U.S. government, provides electricity for business customers and distribution utilities. TVA program manager Keeuntae Stone said the organization is glad it can help communities during the pandemic.