Amid worry over how to cope with money problems caused by the county's bankruptcy, local school officials have learned their district is getting a $1.1-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help combat drugs and violence in schools.
The federal grant will provide some welcome financial help, although officials still estimate the Santa Ana Unified School District faces a potential loss of $12 million to $28 million tied to the county's collapsed investment pool.
"At this point, every dollar counts," said Edward Lee Vargas, assistant superintendent of support services for the school district. "We are extremely pleased to have received the grant."
The school district was selected from scores of applicants throughout the United States, from which about 30 were awarded grants ranging from $300,000 to about $1 million, Vargas said.
Over an 18-month period beginning in February, seven elementary, intermediate and high schools in Santa Ana will be targeted for prevention and education programs to help students avoid drugs and violence, Vargas said.
"We want kids to put more thought into the situations they find themselves in," he said. "I think if we can do that, we can help students to work through their problems more constructively."
Eleven new positions, including three school-based police officers, will be created under the grant, Vargas said. Four elementary schools--Carver, Fremont, Heninger and Lowell--will expand their Drug Abuse Resistance Education classes to include third-graders and implement Project YES, an anti-violence curriculum.
Spurgeon and Willard intermediate schools will implement a DARE program for the first time and enroll at-risk students in Student Success Academies, a computer and visual arts curriculum to teach conflict management, refusal skills and peer relationships, Vargas said.
At Santa Ana High School, students will have the option to enroll in a class called "Violence in America," which will focus on developing alternatives to violence through role-playing and discussions, as well as community service projects.
"Hopefully, students will walk out with a better understanding of the way things are," Vargas said.
The schools that will receive grant money were selected in collaboration with the Santa Ana police, Vargas said, and represent the "cluster that would benefit the most."
The selected schools are located in the central area, and typically have a higher rate of police service calls, Vargas said.