from Politico Morning Report by Caitlin Emma | via email
25 Sept 2014 :: More Newtown, Conn., students are failing classes compared to previous years. The rate of chronic absenteeism has nearly doubled. Students can't seem to get solid rest and are having trouble paying attention in class. Students with disabilities have regressed, and referrals to special education has increased. Those problems are all detailed in the district's application [http://politico.pro/1tZMNqw ] for a third federal grant to help the district move forward after the Dec. 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. "The sense that school is an unsafe place throughout the community, along with severe post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and grief reactions, has affected how students perform in and outside of the classroom," the application says. The district had already received about $3.2 million in federal Project SERV grant money from the U.S. Education Department.
The health and well-being of a grieving staff has declined. "They have needed additional planning time to prepare lessons, mental health services during school hours, and strategies to alleviate the stress ... Many have reported health changes, including weight gain, high blood pressure or strains to their own family." School employees and students need brief interventions and support groups during the day when a loud noise frightens them or reminds them of the tragedy. And the shooting has created a rift in the district. Some want to get on with the normal academic schedule while others can't seem to move on. "This lack of understanding and tolerance is creating frustration, impatience and lowering morale," the grant application says.
The most recent grant award will help the students and staff at Sandy Hook, Reed Intermediate School, Newtown Middle and Newtown High. At those schools, children witnessed the shooting or have siblings who were directly affected by it. The district wants to add counseling services for students and staff and a program to educate students about the early warning signs of depression. And the district has to reconfigure safety drills. "A lockdown drill has not been executed since the tragedy," the application says.