PUEBLO — Ahead of the new school year, Kaiser Permanente announced five school districts in Colorado will receive a total of $1.5 million in grant money over the next three years. Pueblo District 70, is one of those school districts.
The grants are designed to help districts expand implementation of Kaiser Permanente’s Resilience in School Environments initiative, or RISE. The initiative empowers schools to create safe and supportive learning environments by cultivating practices that strengthen the social and emotional health of all school employees and students.
As schools plan to reopen after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, grant funds will also be available to support their COVID-19 prevention efforts in each school district including sanitation and hygiene, expanded testing, social distancing support, and safe meal distribution to food-insecure students.
Pueblo School District 70 was awarded a $300,000 Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools grant. This grant supports implementing Thriving Schools RISE framework in 20 schools across the district. Professional learning opportunities will be promoted to increase trauma-informed competencies and reduce the effects of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma for staff. Pueblo 70 plans to scale its social-emotional wellness work, practices and policies, to reach approximately 80 percent of schools in the district.
"We realize that this year, more than ever, we need to be mindful of the mental toll this pandemic has taken on our students and staff," said Ed Smith, Pueblo School District 70 superintendent.
In addition to grant funding, Kaiser Permanente has plans in place to begin offering schools a unique virtual platform for learning about, identifying, and living with mental health needs. These plans include expanding the availability of programs like RISE UP, a complimentary learning session for school staff, administrators, and teachers, designed to foster resilience and support school staff as they work with students using trauma-informed practices as well as Ghosted, an interactive play and workshop designed to address mental health needs, break down stigma, and provide resources to teens and teachers.
"Having the focus be on just one portion of the school's community mental health, wouldn't cover the whole spectrum of folks in the school community who needs to have their emotional health supported," said Ellen Weaver, Director of Community Health and Engagement. "Having this grant funding not only for students but for teachers and staff and the whole school community is a key part of making these programs successful."