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APS offers recovery plan for 1st day of school

8:45 PM, Aug 2, 2012   |    comments
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"I was pretty sad to hear that someone so ignorant that would go into a movie theater and shoot," Kaden, a student at Vista Peak Exploratory, said.

That's why Superintendent John Barry wants families to know that when school starts on August 7, the district is ready with a recovery plan to help anyone with mental health needs after shootings at the Century 16 Theater on July 20th.

"Our schools are safe," Barry said. "We have a plan and our students, staff, and families are not alone."

District officials estimate that at Gateway High School alone, around 50 students were in theaters 8 or 9 when the shootings began that left 12 people dead and 58 more people injured. Across the district, hundreds of students and staff members are directly impacted by the attacks.

"We have the added pressure of school on top of dealing with some of these issues," Barry said.

With the help of a $50,000 grant offered by the U.S. Department of Education and a dip into the district's emergency funds, Aurora Public Schools will provide extra counselors and psychologists to schools over the next three months.

Kaden gets it.

"Cause, a lot of kids pay attention to the news," Kaden said. 

On the first day of classes in the first period, every teacher will be given an age-specific script to read addressing the issues and letting students know that someone is available if they want to talk through any emotions.

"To do it in a structured environment with a trained educator is a lot better than the hallway, the gym, or the playground," Barry said.

The district will also create a system of roving substitute teachers.

"Having someone that a teacher can just say, I need a break," Barry said.

Aurora Public Schools have been working with national consultants on the recovery plan. 

Dr. David Schonfeld is with the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. He says offering students help right away can make a difference down the road.

"I think it does," Dr. Schonfeld said. "That culture and that response over time does prevent longer term difficulties. Not only are kids physically safe in schools, but they are emotionally safe, as well."

U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will deliver a podcast directed to the Aurora Schools community. District leaders set up a parent meeting for Thursday night at Rangeview High School to discuss the Recovery Plan with parents.

"It is unusual for a school system to have a plan in place this quickly," Schonfeld said.

Superintendent Barry says the district has a chance to seek more federal grant money after the initial $50,000 runs out.

Because if little Kaden understands what's happening, odds are most other kids do, too.

"Cause people can just help them out and say, it's okay," Kaden said.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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