Grant would preserve prevention programs

Facing funding cuts that would likely decimate drug and alcohol prevention programs, the White River School District is applying for a Pierce County Human Services Chemical Dependency Prevention Services Grant.

The deadline is Dec. 3.

According to Assessment and Curriculum Director Mike Jacobsen, the district is the sponsoring agency applying on behalf of the community. The district is teaming with local police and fire departments, the Families First Coalition and the Buckley Youth Activity Center.

The grant’s focus is to reduce drug and alcohol abuse.

“It’s not something we can solve in a school building,” Jacobsen said. “It’s a lot about community.”

White River currently runs its programs on a budget of approximately $60,000, but has been able to provide and support a number of programs. The money comes from a variety of sources including the Educational Service District and the state, but, Jacobsen said, those funding sources are drying up and could be gone by June.

White River Prevention Team members Herb Entz and Keren Smith can rattle off a number of programs that will disappear without funding, starting with the districtwide health and prevention curriculum, Great Body Shop, used in grades three through eight.

“That’s probably the biggest hit,” Entz said. “The kids take it home. Parents really like it. The feedback’s been favorable from the community.”

The list also includes the four student-led teams at the middle and high schools like Rachel’s Challenge and Chain Links.

Funding cuts would also effect community parenting classes like Strengthening Families, Love and Logic and Guiding Good Choices.

Entz and Smith are also concerned tobacco education classes would disappear. Those classes, they said, go hand-in-hand with alternatives to suspension and provide options for discipline that keep kids in school and from falling through the cracks. It also reduces resources for drug and alcohol intervention and sober support groups.

Reductions would also end or limit parent education programs and drinking and driving awareness programs like the multi-jurisdictional mock crashes before prom and graduation.

“We believe we are very effective at that,” Entz said.

Smith said additional funds could be used to bring back activities and transportation to keep kids busy and engaged after school.

“We could reach kids on a broader scale after school during that witching hour when kids are unsupervised and bored and parents are not home from work yet,” she said.

“The district has been extremely supportive and has kept them (these projects) floating despite budget cuts,” Entz said. “They understand the importance of these programs.”

Jacobsen said if the district could land one of the few grants it would hopefully be enough to keep programs alive and possibly expand them.

Jacobsen would like to reach beyond the Pierce County boundary to include its community partners across the river in Enumclaw.

“This grant could provide a bridge opportunity that would lead to working with both communities,” Jacobsen said.

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