OPS, DCPS to use grants for upcoming projects

Photo by Bobbie Hayse, Messenger-Inquirer/ bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com Camille Devine, 14, of Owensboro, completes a lab test in her class at Owensboro High School Monday as part of a simulated crime scene. The ninth-grader is in the new OHS biomedical program that recently was given a $10,000 grant from Owensboro Health to go toward the purchase of new equipment.

Owensboro and Daviess County public schools both were recipients of Owensboro Health's Community Health Investments grants that were distributed last week.

Owensboro Public Schools will receive two grants, one $10,000 grant and one $14,000 grant to be used for the new Owensboro High School biomedical program, and for a district vision program, respectively. Daviess County Public Schools will be using its $30,000 for its work implementing mental health programming throughout the district.

Christina Dalton, a DCPS social worker, said the grant money will be used for multiple services within the district, with a lot of them having to do with mindfulness. Specifically, the district will be focusing on its Umbrella Project, which includes a wide range of programs it is implementing in the name of trauma-informed awareness. To be trauma-informed means to have the tools and the means to help take care of an individual's whole needs, especially psychological and emotional.

Dalton said ensuring every DCPS employee, from teachers to bus drivers, understands best trauma-informed practices is good because all it takes is one positive relationship to make a difference in a kid's life. So some of the grant funds will be used to bring in educators from the University of Kentucky to teach district employees, as well as members of the community, what it means to be trauma-informed and how to best handle situations when a child is experiencing trauma.

The district will also be building trauma-informed classrooms and mindful rooms, specifically at Highland Elementary School and Heritage Park High School.

"The mindful room is going to be a place where a kid can go to 'practice a pause,' " Dalton said. "It'll have tools in there to get them back to their thinking brain because a lot of times when a kid has experience chronic complex trauma they live in a fight, flight or freeze mode 24-7."

The rooms will be a place where a child who becomes emotionally upset can chill out and get ready to reenter the classroom where they can continue learning.

"There's a purpose behind every behavior," Dalton said. "Our goal is to always be able to provide the greatest education we can. If we can get kids back in their thinking brain, we can have a chance of giving them the best way to learn."

Ashley Holderby, OPS district nurse, said $14,000 of the grant funds the district received will go toward the OPS Comprehensive District Vision Project. The money will be used to purchase vision screening equipment that will speed up the process of vision screenings that typically take place for students in grades first through fourth.

Typically the district does the general screening of having a child stand at a specific spot and read words or name shapes from a certain distance. A screening like that typically also requires another comprehensive screening to determine the severity of the vision issues, and then the child may be taken out of class in order to go to an actual eye doctor.

"So that's at least two times a child would be taken out of the classrooms, and sometimes (the screeners) weren't effective," Holderby said.

With the grant funds, the district will purchase what Holderby called a spot vision screener, which is a "point and click" system that can physically take a look at a child's eye and determine if they are in need of a comprehensive exam or if their eyes look healthy and all measurements are in range.

The spot vision screener will allow for more accuracy and it allows for quicker screening. It also can help direct an optometrist who may be looking for other eye illnesses.

"If our children do not have accurate vision, there is no way they can take in the education we are providing them," Holderby said. "It's important to address all vision problems. It can affect all health issues along the way. Our goal is to have the healthiest children so that they can be in the seats and be taught every day."

OPS also received a $10,000 grant to help fund the Owensboro High School Biomedical Program that kicked off this school year. The funds will be used to purchase necessary equipment for the new program, which had more than 120 students apply to be a part of, according to Jared Revlett, district spokesman.

Sarah Brown, the biomedical sciences instructor, came to OPS from Lexington where she taught in a similar program with Fayette County Public Schools. Such a program is important for students, she has said, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs within the health field are expected to increase 19% by 2024, with seven of the top-10 growing jobs in Kentucky related to health sciences.

This biomedical science program is through Project Lead The Way, a nationally recognized company, and it covers more than 50 careers in the science and medical fields. With each career students are introduced to, they will have a lab or a project so they can get hands-on experience.

Over the course of four years, students will have the opportunity to explore 15 labs, get to meet professionals in the field because guest speakers will be visiting with them, and in their fourth year will do an internship with a profession of their choice. By the time they graduate, they will also have the chance to earn certifications so they can be job-ready by the time they leave high school.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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