Kyrene prevention efforts slimmed down - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Education

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Kyrene prevention efforts slimmed down

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Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 11:00 pm

The Kyrene School District has decided which of its prevention programs can be sustained after the expiration of the grant that used to pay for them, and officials are saying that most can be saved. "What we had to do was look at the prevention services we had in the district before the grant and see what we could have after," said Kelly Alexander, the district's director of supplemental education. "It may look a little different, but fundamentally (the programs) will still be the same." Cuts to the district's prevention programs were forced as the result of the end this year of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. The initiative was a federal grant that provided the district with about $8 million over four years to help establish and maintain alcohol, drug and violence prevention programs, early childhood development programs and student mental health services. Alexander noted that Kyrene has been cognizant since the grant was first received that it was a finite source of funds, and much of the money over the last four years was put into implementing programs that would be self-sustaining. Project ALERT, the district's primary drug prevention program that replaced the DARE program two years ago, was one such program. Materials and curricula associated with Project ALERT, as well as staff training, are still in place and can continue. Many programs will remain but at lower funding levels. Second Step, the district's anti-bullying efforts, will continue, but in the form of assemblies and teacher presentations. The grant money had previously provided for prevention specialists to perform anti-bullying parent workshops around the district. The STAR Program and KASP - a summer academic program and the Kyrene Alternative to Suspension Program respectively - will pull supporting funds from site 301 money. "Site 301 dollars is just another funding source," Alexander said. "It's a fund principals use for dropout prevention programs and AIMS instruction. The majority of our site 301 dollars is in our salary schedule, but principals" keep an emergency fund for times like these. The biggest hit the grant's loss will cause is to prevention staff. Half of the district's truancy efforts, the district-wide crisis intervention effort and all six of the district's regional prevention supervisors are no longer funded, Alexander said. Kyrene's loss of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative was inevitable, said Karin Smith, the district's federal grant coordinator, when the grant was formally set for expiration in April. Smith noted there was no way the district could have again received the grant money. "We weren't eligible to reapply," Smith said. "Districts aren't allowed to receive it twice; it's very competitive. The year we got it only 13 districts in the nation got it too." Smith said the grant was first applied for and received in August 2003, and was initially intended to be a three-year grant. The district was able to use stretch grant funds to pay for a fourth year. --Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or jludwig@aztrib.com.

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