South Routt School District receives $60,360 grant from marijuana tax revenue to hire health care professional | CraigDailyPress.com

South Routt School District receives $60,360 grant from marijuana tax revenue to hire health care professional

Ben Ingersoll

— The South Routt School District was awarded $60,360 in grant funding from marijuana tax revenue Wednesday as part of a $2.5 million pool set aside by the Legislature to be used specifically for addressing health care professional needs in Colorado schools.

South Routt was one of 11 districts that received part of the $975,000 total in grants. The Colorado Department of Education, which received the grant applications and will allot the money, has opened a second application period for the remaining grant pool.

Karla Setter, the grant writer for all three Routt County school districts, said Hayden is one of 16 schools that applied for the second round of funding.

South Routt School District officials have indicated that they intend to use the $60,360 to hire one full-time health professional who will specialize in social work and drug awareness, emphasizing student attendance and drug preventative education.

"My hope is that we will be able to hire a school social worker whose function is to work with families specifically in regards to attendance," Soroco High School Principal Jen Hufman said.

District Superintendent Darci Mohr and Hufman said the job opening should be posted within a week, and a professional could be hired as soon as a few weeks from now. The staff member likely will be based at Soroco High School but will be shared with Soroco Middle School and will be utilized throughout the small community and district, Mohr said.

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Using data from the yearly Healthy Kids Colorado Survey as well as noticing an ongoing trend of more marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities popping up around town, Mohr said the position’s focus will be preventative but will include districtwide education, training and education for parents and the community, as well.

“When you put together student natural curiosity with things like dispensaries, it may mean the presence of more marijuana in homes with parents exercising their right to recreational use," Mohr said. "We want to be ahead of it and be prepared preventatively."

With a district of about 380 students, Setter stressed in the grant application South Routt’s need for help in health staffing areas of nursing and substance abuse. The district had to submit a request to the Department of Education to have the grant be for a full-time position, and the application stated that South Routt’s health professional team consists of four employees who make up just three-quarters of a full-time worker.

The Denver Post reported that some school district officials said the turnaround period for the first round of grant applications was too short. Only 12 schools applied in the first round, and Setter agreed that the process was a rush, but she said the fact that the allotted grants only last until the end of the 2014-15 school year may have played a role in that.

"I believe another reason some schools hesitated is because the funding only allocated through June of this year," Setter said. "It’s quick to hire someone in the middle of the school year who’s qualified and only guaranteed through the end of the year."

Setter said she is hopeful that the Department of Education will secure more funds beyond this school year to continue the program, but districts likely will need to reapply if more funding opens.

She said in the application that if the grant expires and doesn’t reopen, "it is possible that the impact of the position will be so great that the school district decides to prioritize it as part of our annual $120,000 or so we receive from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board."

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

Districts that received first round of grants Wednesday

• Alamosa School District, $50,000

• Archuleta School District No. 50 JT, $65,790

• Center Consolidated Schools 26JT, $87,062

• The New America School, $169,232

• Atlas Preparatory School, $89,200

• Cripple Creek School District, $108,024

• HOPE Online Learning Academy, $131,900

• GOAL Academy, $53,440

• Mountain Valley School District RE-1, $64,000

South Routt School District RE-3, $60,360

• St. Vrain Valley School District, $96,650