Newtown School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, joined US Representative Elizabeth Esty, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and US Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Schools Director David Esquith on a conference call Wednesday announcing the local school district will receive an additional $3.1 million grant under the School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program.
When added to the existing funds already received through the program, the funding will deliver to Newtown one of the largest Project SERV grants ever awarded.
Rep Esty explained that this grant awarded through the US Department of Education is focused on students and staff who were directly impacted by the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook School who need continued monitoring and additional services/support.
This week’s award is being combined with a $1.3 million grant already implemented for the 2012-13 school year and a $1.9 million grant for the 2013-14 school year. The new grant will allow maximum support services through the 2015-16 school year, according to Mr Esquith.
He noted that the grant will permit the expansion of staff including counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and unarmed, specially trained school security officers.
Sen Murphy extended his appreciation to President Barack Obama and administration for their continuing support of the community, which is still intensely involved in the process of recovery, and said the grant will help continue and enhance the level of support that is required.
The senator said during a brief visit to the Labor Day Parade earlier this week, his feeling was that that recovery effort is progressing slowly. And he said the assistance being provided to continue the important support in the school community will be combined with grants and other funds coming from federal, private, and state support.
“This is proof that the focus stays on Newtown even after the headlines disappear,” Sen Murphy said. “In my mind, there’s no end to the amount of support we should provide to the Newtown community in response to one of our nation’s greatest tragedies, and I’ll keep fighting for additional resources for the amazing people of Newtown — they’re the definition of bravery and strength.”
‘Never Forget Newtown’
Sen Blumenthal said the nation can never forget Newtown.
“The community itself has rallied around those families who are still healing,” Sen Blumenthal noted, adding that the funding will help continue recovery efforts, expecting that support will be needed for years to come.
Recalling the unimaginable grief he witnessed as parents and family members on 12/14 learned the fate of their loved ones, Sen Blumenthal said the commitment and support the town is receiving through the latest grant is critical to ongoing recovery efforts.
“Since that horrific December day, Newtown has rallied together in recovery, inspiring us all with their strength, compassion, and courage,” said the senator. “For the Sandy Hook community — the teachers, counselors, first responders, parents, and students — recovery is a long road that may require continued attention and services. Since the days and hours immediately after this tragedy, the Department of Justice and Department of Education have been key partners, providing critical support and resources. This grant builds upon that comprehensive effort, extending critical support to Newtown survivors for an additional two years as students and teachers work to restore a learning environment.”
Rep Esty thanked the senators and the administration for doing “all they can for this community that has been torn apart” by the act of violence that occurred on 12/14.
“The unimaginable tragedy that occurred on December 14 still strikes hard at the core of the Newtown community,” she said. “This grant will help Newtown’s educators, students, and families heal, recover, and provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our students. I am proud to assist in securing this additional grant to help with what we know will be long-term needs of the Newtown educational community who were and continue to be so deeply affected. As their representative in Congress, I will continue to work hard to support this resilient community in every way that I can.”
The congresswoman said during her visit to Newtown for the Labor Day Parade, she talked to community members, many who were immediately touched by the tragedy.
“Educators have a particular challenge especially at this early point in the school year,” she noted.
Two More Years
Dr Erardi said in January 2014, he told the school board and community members that he would always have respect for the past, while turning his attention to the future of the local district.
“This $3.1 million is allowing us to support that recovery … for the next two school years,” Dr Erardi said during the call. “I also want to ensure our families that every penny of every dollar will be sent wisely for those in need.”
He also reminded officials on the call that a number of survivors and victims’ parents attended a recent convocation event, and that the grant will permit the district to place maximum attention on the families who need it, for the extended period of time that specialized support or counseling might be required.
“The DOE has stepped up for the long haul to be sure every parent student members of the community can move forward,” the superintendent said.
Dr Erardi said the district and Department of Education has done a tremendous amount of research to try and determine future needs. He described the current and anticipated future needs of students and families in the district as “enormous.” And he suggested the anticipated recovery will continue for at least 15 years.
He said parents are an integral part of the efforts, and also praised the district staff and especially the Sandy Hook School staffers who he suggested have been “running on adrenaline” through the earliest stages of recovery. But he still believes the funding is critical because the community and district are still in the early stages of responding to the traumatic aftereffects of 12/14.
Rep Esty noted how families and those affected by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are still seeking and requiring significant support, including constituents in her district who were present at that event.
Addressing Advancing Students
Prior to the conference call, Julie G. Haggard, Newtown’s director of pupil services, explained that as students in Sandy Hook School are aging into the intermediate school, and immediate family members and peers age into the middle and high schools, they and their families are still requiring expanded, targeted support.
“We’re talking about families with multiple siblings who are affected,” Ms Haggard said. “This funding will permit us to take a more focused approach toward helping them using further enhanced services.”
Ms Haggard said that the town and school community are in a different phase of recovery than they were in the days and months following 12/14. And new and existing programming is adjusting to where it is needed to support the posttraumatic effects now developing among district families.
At the same time, she indicated that services already being provided to staff and students are helping.
“The response has been very positive,” she said. “We are beginning to see improving outcomes, and with this new grant we will see further strengthening of the systems already in place, improving our approach to interventions that will enhance recovery for not only the district, but for the entire community.”
First Selectman Pat Llodra joined the school district extending sincere appreciation for the continuing support of the federal government in this third issuing of a SERV grant.
“The district has put into place a school-based recovery program that merits ongoing support through SERV,” Mrs Llodra said. “This grant provides funding for the recovery personnel and programs. Soon, we move into a second year after the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Recovery of those most impacted by the tragedy need continuing support and this SERV grant enables that good work of the recovery team to continue.”