Schools to try for grants for programs

COVINGTON - During a tight budget year with even more expected cuts to come, officials at the Newton County School System are looking for alternative ways to support new programs in its schools.

In an effort to introduce more safety initiatives in the school system, officials are working on a grant that could make schools safer and students healthier.

NCSS announced that grant writers have been busy working on an application for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, an opportunity through the Safe and Drug Free Schools Office at the U.S. Department of Education that promotes healthy childhood development and bullying, violence and substance abuse prevention.

"There are a lot of things we're doing and of course ... we haven't got any money to spare for new programs, so I'm applying for all grants I can find," said Kathy Garber, NCSS grant coordinator.

This is the first time the school system has applied for the grant, which could provide the school system with up to $1.5 million per year for four years.

NCSS is partnering with the Newton County Community Partnership, the Juvenile Courts and Juvenile Justice Department, Gwinnett/Rockdale/Newton Mental Health, KidsNet and local law enforcement to develop a plan for safer schools and healthier students, but NCSS already has some ideas about areas the funding could help improve.

Garber said the grant could help start or continue programs in such areas as bullying prevention and troubled youth, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol prevention, positive behavior and intervention programs and early childhood programs.

It also may help fund an after-school program for low-income families; currently, the after-school program at NCSS is tuition-based and some of the most needy families cannot afford to pay for it, Garber said.

NCSS also invites local accredited private schools and Pre-K providers to join the partnership in order to receive training and materials if NCSS is awarded the grant.

Considering the current economy and limited amount of funds, Garber said she expects the grant will be very competitive this year, but NCSS officials still want to try for the funds and hope for the best.

She said even if NCSS isn't awarded the grant, applying for it will give the school system the application experience in case the opportunity comes up again in the future. She said an expert panel for the grant source will review every application received and offer feedback that officials can use to improve their application in the future.

The grant application is due in March and those awarded the grant may know by July.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.