Eight flood-impacted districts get federal money

Two and a half months after northern Colorado got hit by historic floods, eight impacted school districts are getting a total of $522,000 to offset some of the surprise costs they’ve incurred since mid-September.

The districts — Boulder Valley, Weld 6, St. Vrain Valley, Thompson, Weldon Valley, Platte Valley, Weld 1 and Valley – will receive amounts ranging from $948 to $313,000 to reimburse them for transportation, counseling, school relocation, tutoring and other expenditures for students who were displaced from their homes or schools by the floods.

The funds, which will be available to districts starting Tuesday, come from a program called Project SERV , which stands for School Emergency Response to Violence. The grant program is meant to help school districts restore the learning environment after violence or disaster.

“The whole point is to try to reduce the burden on them,” said Trish Boland, who coordinated the grant distribution process for the Colorado Department of Education.

In Weld 6, which will receive about $119,000, the funds will pay for more counseling services and two additional homeless liaisons to work with the existing liaison to support students who were displaced by the floods. Theresa Meyers, the district’s director of communications, said the Project SERV money will be a great help.

“We are an incredibly low-funded district,” she said. “We’re digging into every revenue source we have to provide the services we must and want to provide to our homeless students.”

Normally, at this time of year, the district would have around 200 students designated as homeless, but because of the floods, the number is nearly 1,100, said Meyers. Under federal law, students qualify as homeless if they are doubled up with friends or relatives, living in hotels, shelters or unsanitary or unsafe residences.

Meyers said most district families displaced by the floods, many from mobile home parks, are not back in permanent housing because not much is available in the Greeley area. In fact, the district recently discovered one family living in a garage and another in a warehouse.

Some of the impacted districts may eventually get a second crack at the Project SERV pot because there is money left over from the federal government’s original $750,000 award to the state. Boland said the districts may be invited to modify their applications in January once they’ve determined what outstanding needs remain. She suspected some districts underestimated their true post-flood costs when they applied because they didn’t want to take more than their share.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.