Deer River Public Schools announced this week, they have been awarded a Full Service Community School grant from the Department of Education. This grant is renewable for five years and each year Deer River Schools will receive $450,000 for a total of $2.2 million over five years.

“We are excited about this grant and the opportunities that it creates to promote achievement for each of our students!” Commented Independent School District 317 Superintendent Dr. Jeff Pesta. “Grant awards improve programming for our students without impacting our district’s taxpayers. We are grateful for the team effort that secured this significant investment in our community.”

The journey

Deanna Hron, Full Service Community Schools Coordinator, explained about two and a half years ago, a group of Deer River Schools staff collaborated to write an initial grant. Hron said the score was out of 100, and they scored low, which made them not receive it.

“We didn’t get it,” Hron said, which led them to reach out to outside sources for additional help in grant writing. “We worked with John Connelly and we talked about our vision.”

Then a year ago in April, they didn’t get it again, yet this time they scored over 100.

This spring, the district received a phone call from the Department of Education and they explained they were going to revisit old grants.

“We were able to get in on the second round,” Hron said.

Starting Oct. 1, 2020, Deer River Schools will receive $450,000 for the next five years.

“The United States Full Service Community Schools Grant, awarded to Deer River Public Schools, will support families to ensure their children’s success,” Hron said.

Plans for the funds are to be able to hire two coordinators, one at the high school and one at the elementary who will work with finding what parents need. With that, an additional parent resource contact, who will be what Hron explained, “the boots on the ground.”

She explained hiring a part-time nurse would be included, to help follow kids who need referrals and would help coordinate from beginning to end.

Positions are currently being advertised on the district’s website, and will be open until filled.

In addition, working with Essentia Health on telehealth practices is a priority. Funds would be allocated for transportation with Nortran, to implement a secondary busing situation.

“Money is available to add an additional food pantry at the high school,” Hron said, which would expand on the pantry already in place at the elementary.

Money would be put toward social and emotional learning, as well as helping uninsured students get glasses or be able to go to doctor appointments. She added, they will also support families with finding Internet service if they don’t have the ability to do so.

This funding will provide Hron with relief, and will allow the district as a whole to expand their services and provide for more students, as well as allow the district to expand their alternative learning program, for high-needs students who can’t be successful in the regular classroom.

With the high-chronic absentee rate, Hron said funding will also be used to work with families to figure out why and what their needs are and if the district can assist them in any way.

“Whether it be transportation help, mental help, [we’ll] figure out what their needs are,” Hron explained. “I really believe we can do some good things.”

She emphasized putting systems in place versus fixing a crisis.

Hron stated, “I’m very passionate about our kids and excited about this opportunity.”

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