Education Department Awarding $8M for Hurricane-Ravaged Schools

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The Department of Education is awarding $8 million to education departments in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help students, educators and school communities recover from a spate of disastrous hurricanes.

“The victims of these hurricanes remain in our constant thoughts and prayers, but as I continue to visit the many impacted schools, I am heartened and in awe of those who are working around the clock to ensure our nation’s children are able to get back to class as quickly as possible,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement Thursday.

The department said it already has awarded $2 million to the Texas Education Agency, and plans to award $2 million each to the Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands education departments.

The funding will be doled out through the Project School Emergency Response to Violence program, also called Project SERV, which helps schools and districts recover from “violent or traumatic events in which the learning environment has been disrupted,” according to the Education Department.

The types of services the funding can cover include mental health assessments; overtime pay for teachers, counselors and law enforcement; substitute teachers; and emergency transportation.

The federal program recently has been used to aid Baltimore City Public Schools in the wake of unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. Aid also has gone to Crazy Horse School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, after a startling number of people on the reservation committed or attempted suicide, and to Umpqua Community College, where a gunman killed nine people in 2015.

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DeVos traveled Wednesday to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas to assess hurricane recovery efforts and talk to local officials about their plans to reopen schools or find other ways to resume learning for students.

“While Project SERV grants are but a small part of this administration’s overall recovery and rebuilding efforts, they provide much-needed funds to help schools become operational again,” DeVos said. “As these funds are distributed, the Department of Education will remain a partner in the long road to recovery ahead.”