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State awards Jeffco over $825,000

Marijuana tax funds for student social emotional health

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The Colorado State Board of Education will be giving a $825,164 award to Jefferson County Public Schools from the School Health Professionals Grant Program

This state grant program utilizes recreational marijuana tax dollars to help hire additional school health professionals in districts across the state.

Jeffco schools will use the funds over a three-year span to hire six elementary school social emotional learning specialists (SELS) and three full-time high school nurses — all new positions. The district says the additional staff will allow the district to build on the staffing choices already made by the current school board in support of social emotional learning and create a comprehensive K-12 system of prevention, with a focus on social emotional learning as a mechanism to prevent substance use.

The new staff will serve 14 schools in the Wheat Ridge and Lakewood communities. The schools were selected because of proximity to recreational marijuana dispensaries.

The new school health professionals will target climate and culture, explicit instruction of evidence-based best practices related to social emotional learning, substance abuse prevention, and behavioral supports in a multi-tiered system of support. Although schools will be given the autonomy to choose interventions and programs that best suit their community, programs must be vetted and evidence-based. The full-time daily presence in schools will promote and encourage deeper social emotional learning and stronger nurse-family partnerships, while improving the chances for youth substance abuse prevention.

Another component of the grant is to help support Jeffco schools’ commitment to the “Be a Healthy School” initiative. During the 2016-17 school year, 110 schools in Jeffco had healthy school liaisons and 65 schools had school health teams that submitted healthy schools goals. Out of the 14 schools the grant will support,they all will receive district support and professional development to select, implement, and sustain best practices and strategies to improve school health.

The grant application was a collaborative effort between the Health Services, Healthy Schools, Student Engagement, and Student Services departments of the school district. The Office of Student Services also hired a student support coordinator, Micah Munro, whose duties will include leading substance abuse prevention efforts for the district, and helping direct the work of the school health professionals.

“Early, consistent intervention is critical to student physical and emotional health,” explained Kevin Carroll, Chief Student Success Officer. “As educators we understand and value that the social and emotional well-being of our students, as well as their physical health, directly impacts their ability to fully access learning opportunities. We are very excited to have this additional support for Jeffco kids.”

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