Sandy-Hook-to-get-Grant

By KATHLEEN MEGAN, Hartford CourantJanuary 6, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded an additional $1.9 million to Newtown to help with the ongoing recovery efforts following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

“The grant gives us funding to put social workers, psychologists and support staff in all the schools,” said David Jacob, Newtown’s recovery project director, said Monday. “The purpose is to restore the learning environment so that children can feel safe and can learn.”

“I would say that the community is beginning to heal,” Jacob said, and the additional grant will allow that work to continue.

The grant is being made through the federal agency’s School Emergency Response to Violence program which gave Newtown $1.3 million in May 2013.

“We will do whatever we can to continue assisting and supporting the healing and recovery of Newtown,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement Monday. “This additional grant will help students, teachers, families, school district and community move forward after such an unimaginable tragedy.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement, “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. This is yet another act of kindness that will support the children of Newtown in the healing process.”

The federal money will be used to continue to fund social workers, psychologists and counselors hired by the Newtown Board of Education after the shooting, as well as covering the cost of staff provided by the Clifford Beers Clinic in Sandy Hook Elementary School and Wellmore Behavioral Health in the rest of the schools in the district.

Alice Forrester, executive director of Clifford Beers said the agency has one psychologist and three social workers who work with students and staff from Sandy Hook Elementary School, which has been temporarily relocated to nearby Monroe. “The work is built on the recovery model and it really focuses on stabilizing the environment and making sure school happens the way it’s supposed to,” said Forrester.

The state of Connecticut is paying for construction of a new elementary school in Sandy Hook that will open in 2016.

A statement from the U.S. Department of Education said it is unusual, but not unprecedented for the federal agency to give awards in two consecutive years to the same district.

“It’s really a big deal to be able to continue this for another year,” said Forrester. “The kind of support the school has now wouldn’t be able to be sustained without these grants… I think the [U.S.] Department of Education really … understood and recognized the severity of the need.”

The federal agency said the additional funding will go toward grief support services for siblings and those who lost peers; help for students suffering from posttraumatic stress or other problems; classroom-based psycho-education; tutoring for students demonstrating academic decline; and other services.

The services for teachers and school staff include support groups and brief interventions for emotional support with referrals to employee assistance programs and community providers. The help for parents will also include brief interventions for emotional support and referrals to community providers.

Newtown Youth and Family Services, a private non-profit group, has also been providing services to school staff in Newtown schools other than Sandy Hook and to community members, but that help has been covered by a federal Department of Justice grant.