MONTPELIER — Education officials are hoping Vermont’s small share of a large federal grant will make a big difference to the state’s students.
Vermont is one of five states to benefit from a five-year, $24.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide additional behavioral, physical health and mental health services for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The bulk of the grant will fund the SWIFT Center, which his housed at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The center, whose name is an acronym for “School-Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation,” seeks to integrate educational and social services and remove the behavioral, emotional and family hurdles from a child’s education.
Instructors from the center will come to Vermont and teach teachers the SWIFT curriculum. The state will receive $50,000 a year for five years to pay for transportation and professional development for existing staff.
Vermont — along with Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Oregon — were chosen to participate based on criteria that included having rural, urban and high-need districts. In Vermont, four supervisory unions were chosen by the state: Southwest Vermont, Windham Southeast, Franklin Northwest and Grand Isle.
“We are thrilled to be one of the five states selected,” said Karin Edwards, director of integrated support for learning for the Agency of Education. “Vermont was selected through a competitive process. The resources that SWIFT will bring to the state and the supervisory unions involved build our capacity to improve outcomes for all students.”
Vermont was also chosen because of its move toward “full-service schools,” said John Fischer, deputy commissioner for the Agency of Education.
“Full-service schools address not just education, but behavioral, mental health and physical health,” Fischer said. “Many times, when a student is having trouble academically, they’re also having trouble emotionally or behaviorally.”
Donna Leep, assistant superintendent for Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, said the SWIFT curriculum would be implemented in the Molly Stark and Bennington elementary schools. She said she’s waiting until a meeting next week with the Agency of Education to learn more about SWIFT.
“It does sound like a really exciting opportunity,” she said.
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