Money to help recover from traumatic events
By Don Rush
At the end of July, Oxford Community Schools (OCS) received some good news. Word came down the pike they were in line for a $707,600 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. And, the word was something they had been waiting on for about nine months.
“We heard about the grant in December 2021 and started working on it in January,” Oxford Superintendent Ken Weaver said. “Oakland Schools brought it to our attention and helped with the process of completing the application requirements. We are very appreciative of Dr. Gary Van Staveren (OCS employee) and Lisa Hansknecht (Oakland Schools consultant) who did the majority of the work on the grant application.”
According to a press release from the Department of Education, the grant was part of a program called School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV). The grant will be used to support ongoing efforts that improve the safety and well-being of students, staff, and families at Oxford High School. These funds also will help to provide counseling and mental health services to students and school staff.
The release quoted U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as stating, “Helping school communities recover from gun violence takes time, compassion, and resources. This Project SERV grant will help Oxford High School improve mental health support for students and educators directly impacted by the trauma and tragedy of last year’s mass shooting…”
According to Weaver, this program funds short-term and long-term education-related services for local educational agencies (LEAs) and institutions of higher education (IHEs) to help them recover from a violent or traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted.
“Since the grant was mostly for short term education-related services, we are using the funds to cover increased costs incurred last year to return to school,” Weaver said. “The federal grant will be used for the substantial increase in costs since Nov. 30, 2021 for security, additional staffing, substitute teaching staff and mental health services.”
Weaver said there are “no strings” attached to the grant “other than completing their requirements for documentation for the funding.”
The money has not yet been disbursed to Oxford, according to Weaver, the district will be reimbursed once they submit documentation they completed the grant’s requirements.
Weaver said the U.S. Department of Education for the Project SERV grant will help support ongoing recovery.
“As we continue to heal from last year’s tragedy, we are focused on supporting our students and staff by providing a safe and supportive learning environment. This generous grant will afford us the necessary funding for our security team and other resources to foster the safety and emotional wellbeing of our students, staff and community,” he said.
But, wait, there’s more! According to Weaver the district is in search of further federal dollars. He said they are working with the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime for Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program grant. “This grant will also support the Resiliency Center, to benefit all Oxford,” Weaver said. “We anticipate this grant supporting some of the new/additional mental health positions we have hired recently such as two OHS counselors, one OHS Family School Liaison, one recovery coordinator and possibly the Executive Director of Student Services and Wellness position and the new third OHS assistant principal position.”