Allegheny County school districts are using $420 million in federal COVID relief to try to get back to normal

Photo above, of Bellevue Elementary School behavioral health school educator Kathryn Robinson preparing her “chill room” for a lesson, is by Oliver Morrison. 

Hello Kidsburgh readers: Our friends at PublicSource have published a detailed investigation into the ways local schools have used millions of dollars in federal COVID relief funds. This powerful piece of journalism by Oliver Morrison offers detailed charts where you can look up your school district. We’ve published the beginning of the story here. You’ll find a link below to read the rest of the story and see the spending data at their website:

Caroline Johns, the superintendent of Northgate School District, saw a presentation about a new behavioral support program back in 2019. The program, called The Chill Project, is run by The Allegheny Health Network, and is premised on the idea that early life traumas can lead to long-term chronic health problems. So intervening early, in schools, can help improve health outcomes in adults.

Johns was excited. But Northgate didn’t have the money for the program. Then, after the pandemic struck, Congress passed three rounds of funding to help school districts across the country recover. That amounted to $190 billion of support, the largest single federal infusion into schools ever, including more than $420 million for public schools in Allegheny County. Some districts have begun reporting challenges in spending some of the money as they struggle to hire additional staff.

With that new funding, Johns committed $800,000 to the Chill Project over four years. It was the largest commitment of relief dollars of any district in the county to additional mental health resources from the first two rounds of funding despite Northgate being one of the smallest districts. Now each of the four schools in the district has its own full-time behavior specialist and its own licensed clinician.

Continue reading this story here at, where you’ll find a detailed breakdown of how the school districts in Allegheny County have spent their COVID relief funds.

This story was originally published by PublicSource, a news partner of PublicSource is a nonprofit media organization delivering local journalism at You can sign up for their newsletters at