This report has been updated since it was originally published with comments from state and federal officials.
The US Department of Education has announced it is awarding an additional $1.9 million to Newtown Public School District to help with ongoing recovery efforts following the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
The grant is being made through the department’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program, which awards immediate services and extended services grants to school districts, colleges, and universities that have experienced a significant traumatic event and need resources to respond, recover, and reestablish safe environments for students.
Newtown received its first Project SERV award — a $1.3 million grant — in May 2013. The second grant will continue to support the school district as it strives to restore a safe and healthy environment for teaching and learning in its schools.
“We will do whatever we can to continue assisting and supporting the healing and recovery of Newtown,” US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “This additional grant will help students, teachers, families, school district, and community move forward after such an unimaginable tragedy.”
Newtown’s first $1.3 million Project SERV grant financially supported both the actions taken by the district immediately following the shooting, as well as the district’s comprehensive school-based behavioral and academic recovery program.
Those services aimed to meet the needs of students, school staff, parents, and family members affected by the tragedy and included support groups for parents, siblings, students, and teachers; creative expression and wellness activities; counseling; training for educators and school personnel; and additional support staff.
The $1.9 million grant will go toward additional grief support services for siblings and those who lost their peers; classroom-based psycho-education and skill-building strategies; skill-based interventions for affected students identified as needing assistance for post-traumatic stress reactions, traumatic grief, separation anxiety, and other behavioral and functional problems; tutoring for students demonstrating academic decline since the incident; additional security; additional nursing services; and more.
The department’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students administers the Project SERV grant program. It has awarded more than $34 million through 113 grants, including Newtown’s additional grant, since the program began in 2001.
Responding to the announcement, Interim Superintendent John Reed said David Esquith, director of the Office of Safe and Healthy Students at the US DOE, came to Newtown a few weeks ago to help the school district resolve a few remaining issues that cleared the way for funding to be awarded.
"I've got nothing but good things to say about the folks from Washington DC who are responsible for supporting this grant," Dr Reed said. "When you get involved in a grant process as complicated as this, you have to have good faith, good planning skills, and the patience to work your way through the planning process."
First Selectman Pat Llodra told The Newtown Bee: "We're very pleased to get that news today, and we're looking forward to another grant to help continue the services being covered by this grant."
Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty applauded the news in a group statement saying:
“What happened in Newtown on December 14, 2012 was an unimaginable tragedy that has touched people across the country. As a nation, we have a solemn obligation to help this community rebuild and heal,” the members said. “This grant is another critical step in meeting that obligation and in making sure that Newtown teachers, students and families have the resources they need to restore a safe and healthy learning environment. We will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that the Newtown community has the support they need to heal, and we will advocate for them every step of the way.”
Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lt Governor Nancy Wyman released the following statement after learning of the grant confirmation:
“There is no blueprint for healing and the path will be different for each child, friend, family and survivor of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” said Governor Malloy. “I would like to thank President Obama and Secretary Duncan for their continued support of the state of Connecticut and community of Newtown as we resolve to move forward in the wake of these unthinkable acts. This is yet another act of kindness that will support the children of Newtown in the healing process.”
“It is essential that we support the children of Newtown in their efforts to heal from tragedies that occurred during their most developmental years,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. “I am thankful for this federal grant which further supports the critical work we’ve begun in this state.”