In June, the Arlington Education Foundation (AEF) awarded the Arlington Public Schools a grant of $56,500 to support the ongoing work of Safe and Supportive Schools (SASS), a district-wide, multi-year initiative focused on student mental health and community engagement. The most recent grant is the third and final award, fulfilling AEF’s total pledge of $200,000.
In 2017, AEF committed to a District Investment Grant of $200,000 to fund implementation of Safe and Supportive Schools within the Arlington public school district. The first phase of the grant was for $100,500 and funded Youth Mental Health First Aid training for over 300 APS staff. The second phase of the grant began in Fall 2019. AEF granted $43,000 to support community outreach and engagement around youth mental health issues. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the main event to connect with the community had to be postponed. This event, known as ENGAGE: A Parent University, is now scheduled to occur in May 2021.
In the current and final stage of Safe and Supportive Schools, APS will benefit from consultation with Education Everywhere to create deep and sustainable awareness of and support for youth mental health throughout APS and our community.
Since 2017, Arlington Public Schools has worked with AEF to aid schools in crafting SASS Action Plans to ensure all students are able to learn in healthy and supportive climates. This work blossomed into district-wide efforts, informed leadership teams, and drove a dramatic increase in the number of school staff fluent in how to promote youth mental health and how to administer mental health first aid to young people in need.
Now, during this final stage of the SASS initiative, APS plans to solidify the work of the previous four years. According to Sara Burd, Director of Counseling and Social Emotional Learning,
“The last phase of implementation will ensure that policies, protocols and positive changes in school culture will outlive staff turnover, new building construction, political elections, and generations of students.”
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the overriding goal of sustained implementation of Safe and Supportive Schools is to effectively reach all students in order to truly provide a safe and equitable learning environment for all.