The 3,500-student Summit School District based in Frisco has lost two students to suicide in the last couple years. It also routinely uses every dollar in a special account reserved for crisis services when students are considering suicide. In a few cases, elementary school students have talked of killing themselves.
These are some of the factors that make a new three-year grant focused on student and staff mental health so timely for the rural district. Summit is one of five Colorado districts selected from 21 to share in $1.5 million awarded by Kaiser Permanente Colorado for such efforts. The other four are Cherry Creek, Boulder Valley, Thompson and Fountain-Fort Carson.
The grants, announced Monday, accompany the launch of Kaiser’s “Find Your Words” campaign to raise awareness about depression and other mental health problems through radio, TV and online messages.
In Summit, the grant money will be used to launch a social and emotional learning curriculum at three of the district’s highest needs elementary schools and help teachers with their own mental health needs.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are,” said Julie McCluskie, the district’s director of communications and community engagement. “We have never had a comprehensive research-based curriculum for students in that age range.”
She said the recent suicides prompted the district last year to hire a social worker to serve middle and high school students, but there wasn’t much in place for elementary students.
“These resources allow us to do something much deeper and richer for our kids,” she said.
As is the case in Summit, most of the grantees will use the money at three schools. Cherry Creek is the exception, focusing its award on a single school — the diverse, 1,780-student Prairie Middle School.