Schools OK nearly $320K for safety up­grade

Com­mu­nity coun­sel­ing, so­cial-emo­tional train­ing to be funded

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI jatkiel­[email protected]­

St. Mary’s school board mem­bers ap­proved the use of al­most $320,000 in state grant money for school safety and se­cu­rity up­grades re­quired by the Safe to Learn Act of 2018. But staff won’t be able to use the money un­til the St. Mary’s County com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove it at a fu­ture meet­ing.

The $317,217 in fund­ing won’t cover the en­tirety of the 11 pro­grams and ini­tia­tives briefly dis­cussed at the Wed­nes­day school board meet­ing, but is “a very good start,” said Mike Wyant, pub­lic schools’ di­rec­tor of safety and se­cu­rity.

The amount of grant money was cal­cu­lated based on ac­tors like the num­ber of stu­dents en­rolled at the pub­lic schools and the num­ber of build­ings. A break­down of how the fund­ing would be spent on each of the 11 lo­cal pro­grams was not pro­vided at the meet­ing.

Pro­grams to re­ceive the Safe to Learn fund­ing in­clude the school watch pro­gram, where law en­force­ment would be paid over­time to pa­trol schools, and com­mu­nity coun­sel­ing for stu-

dents who may need more spe­cial­ized help.

Other pro­grams to re­ceive fund­ing in­clude: the school bus traf­fic safety en­force­ment pro­gram; the Cri­sis Pre­ven­tion In­sti­tute; men­tal health first aid train­ing for staff; PRE­PaRE; “Stop the Bleed­ing” pro­gram; and opi­oid over­dose re­vers­ing drug Nalox­one dosage main­te­nance. Fund­ing would also pro­vide ad­di­tional train­ing in so­cial emo­tional learn­ing pro­grams like con­scious dis­ci­pline and restora­tive prac­tices.

Both pro­grams are be­ing used across the county to help teach­ers show stu­dents how to self-reg­u­late their be­hav­ior.

Jim Davis, school board mem­ber, said the list of pro­grams to be funded was “very, very am­bi­tious.”

Karen Bai­ley, school board chair­woman, said staff “didn’t ask for $500,000 and only get $300,000.” She ex­plained there was a fund­ing for­mula used to de­ter­mine the grant amount.

She said schools have to send money over to the St. Mary’s sher­iff’s of­fice to pay their em­ploy­ees who mon­i­tor schools be­cause “they can’t ap­ply for this fund­ing” and grant fund­ing

is sent specif­i­cally to schools to del­e­gate to pro­grams or se­cu­rity im­prove­ments. Ac­cord­ing to bud­get doc­u­ments, school staff ex­pect to spend $90,000 to help with the ad­di­tional cost of pa­trolling “all schools, with a fo­cus on el­e­men­tary schools.”

There are cur­rently three school re­source of­fi­cers from the St. Mary’s sher­iff’s of­fice as­signed to the three county high schools, as well as two other of­fi­cers that split their time be­tween the four pub­lic mid­dle schools in St. Mary’s.

Wyant said the fund­ing was in­tended to sup­ple­ment — not re­place — ex­ist­ing lo­cal and state fund­ing meant for school


Mary Washington, school board mem­ber, asked about the “who, what, when and where” in­volved with the com­mu­nity coun­sel­ing. Bud­get doc­u­ments state that staff have $64,940 des­ig­nated for this pro­gram, which in­cludes men­tal health, wrap­around and outreach ser­vices for stu­dents and schools.

Ch­eryl Long, pub­lic schools’ di­rec­tor of stu­dent ser­vices, said teach­ers rec­om­mend stu­dents who might be anx­ious about some­thing in their life or “not able to fo­cus on their work.”

Washington said a por­tion of the grant fund­ing would help

stu­dents who “don’t have the re­sources to pay for” coun­sel­ing or ther­apy they may need.

An­other por­tion of the fund­ing would be used to “train the trainer” for a men­tal health first aid pro­gram for staff, Long said.

Cathy Allen, school board mem­ber, said she liked the idea of of­fer­ing ad­di­tional pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment be­cause it “ex­tends the reach of the dol­lars” al­lot­ted by the grant.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Scott Smith said the great­est in­vest­ment school staff can make is “in our peo­ple” so they can be bet­ter pre­pared to in­vest in chil­dren at­tend­ing St. Mary’s schools.

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