The Milton School District announced that six of its schools will each receive a small grant to create a plan for how best to support students dealing with grief or loss.

Milton West Elementary School Principal Marcia Schwengels said several principals in the district expressed interest in taking part in the Grief-Sensitive School Initiative of the New York Life Foundation.

As a result, Schwengels’ school, West Elementary; Consolidated Elementary; Harmony Elementary; Northside Intermediate; and Milton Middle schools were designated “grief sensitive” and received help preparing bereavement support plans and pay for staff training.

“We were able to do the training for kindergarten through eighth grade and all schools involved became grief-sensitive trained,” Schwengels said. “We worked with the New York Life Foundation, who provides the training to staff. We had a staff Zoom meeting and learned about how to talk to families who were experiencing bereavement of any type.”

The training was roughly 90 minutes. Different modules were available to help teach staff more professional development on the subject, if needed.

“Grief is a really hard thing to talk about with people,” Schwengels said. “A lot of people have different comfort levels. So this training helped the staff at their comfort level.”

After completing the training, the schools received a $500 grant. With the money, they now are able to purchase materials they think would help students on this subject. This could include books to help them work through the grieving process, and the schools have purchased a couple such books to help teachers better help students.

“The grant is very broad. Whatever the school feels they need in order to help,” said Schwengels. “It could be family specific, so if we had a family experiencing grief and they could not afford counseling, we could help with that.”

Schwengels said she is grateful the schools did the training this year because of concerns the pandemic would affect students, especially if they lost family members to COVID-19. Schwengels said no students at her school experienced such a loss. However, she said several students in the school have lost a parent in the past two years.

According to Schwengels, 1 in 15 children will lose a parent by the time they are 18 years old.

“Being one of those statistics myself, who lost a parent when I was 15, I know the importance of making sure that the grief process is met and not ignored or swept away,” Schwengels said. “Grief that is not dealt with can fester into all kinds of bad habits into adulthood.”


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