NEW BRITAIN – Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty released the following statement regarding news that Sandy Hook Elementary will receive a School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant of $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Education.
“I thank Secretary Duncan and President Obama for hearing our continued calls to respond to the needs of Newtown, and being there time and time again for this community,” Ms Esty said in a release. “What happened in Newtown on December 14 was an unimaginable tragedy that has touched people on a national scale.”
Acting Superintendent of Schools John Reed said he was, "delighted the district has finally secured approval for Phase I of this important grant which will be entirely supporting our recovery initiative."
"It’s very important that all Newtowners understand this grant replicates nothing in the existing Board of Education budget or proposed 2013-2014 budget," Dr Reed said in a statement.
Ms Esty said the grant is a critical initial step in meeting that obligation and in ensuring that Newtown teachers, students and families have the resources they need to restore a safe and healthy learning environment.
The SERV grant will financially support both the actions taken by the district immediately following the shootings, as well as the district’s comprehensive school-based behavioral and academic recovery program.
Those services aim to meet the needs of students, school staff, parents and family members affected by the tragedy and include support groups for parents, siblings, students and teachers; creative expression and wellness activities; counseling; training for educators and school personnel; and additional support staff.
Dr Reed provided additional information on how the grant would be allocated. He said, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education, “The School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program funds short-term and long-term education-related services for local educational agencies (LEAs) . . . to help them recover from a violent or traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted.”
He said Phase I will fund the provision and organization of mental health services. Some of these services are already in place in the Newtown public schools and other positions will be filled in the near future.
These positions, among others, provide school-based mental health support, and include:
*Project Recovery director
Dr Reed said that the district is already working with several service providers.
At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Yale Child Study Center and the Clifford Beers Child Guidance Center have been providing the principle school-based mental health support. Mental health services at the six other Newtown schools are provided by Wellmore Behavioral Health Center.
This phase of the SERV grant will fund the additional security guards who have been in place since January, a summer academic booster program for Sandy Hook students, and professional development for staff that is related to the recovery process.
The SERV grant funds do not defray any cost within the operating budget of the Newtown Public Schools. These monies do not fund anything in the proposed 2013-14 budget.
This comprehensive mental health recovery program is funded by the support of the federal government and the Newtown Public School system will be seeking this assistance over the coming years.
When the district receives a copy of the approved SERV grant, it will be reviewed and further information provided to the Newtown community.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Chris Murphy, and Congresswoman Esty have introduced the Helping Communities Rebuild After Deadly School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events Act, which would authorize schools to apply for future funding through the existing SERV grant program for site construction in the wake of mass tragedies, and allow for federal assistance to Sandy Hook Elementary School for its recently approved reconstruction project.
Every member of the Connecticut House delegation has co-authored the bill in the House.
This report was updated with input from Dr Reed since it was originally posted.