Safe, supported schools are focus of new grants
If children perceive their environments as safe and supportive, academic performance improves.
That is the basis for two federal grants that the Iowa Department of Education has received totaling $13.2 million. Aimed at making schools safer and more supported, the two grants support mental health and behavior efforts.
A third federal grant totaling $257,000 will go toward helping school districts develop and implement high-quality school emergency operations.
The $9.6 million “Now Is The Time” grant is a partnership of the Iowa Department of Education and three of the highest-needs districts in the state: Davenport, Sioux City, and Waterloo. A total of 300 professionals will be trained as instructors in the Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) program, which focuses on helping adolescents ages 12 to 18 who are experiencing mental health or addictions challenges. The newly trained instructors, in turn, will train an additional 2,250 teachers, school support personnel, and community agency staff in the YMHFA program.
The goal of the training is to learn how to identify at-risk students early, refer them to appropriate behavioral health supports, and monitor their progress to ensure the supports are effective.
The grant will complement the $3.6 million grant aimed at behavior within the schools. Called the Iowa School Climate Transformation grant, this will focus on six as-yet unnamed rural districts, in addition to Davenport, Sioux City and Waterloo.
The central focus of the grant will be to train educators to use effective strategies in dealing with behavior issues that can impact classrooms, from the every-day behaviors to the much more complex. The emphasis will be on incorporating Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and developing a statewide coaching cadre.
Finally, the School Emergency Management grant will be used to help every school in Iowa develop a plan that will emphasize safety within the buildings. That includes prevention, protection, and mitigation activities that generally occur before an incident; response activities that occur during an incident; and recovery activities that can begin during an incident and occur after an incident.
The Iowa Department of Education will conduct regional and on-line trainings for public and non-public schools.