School district offering counseling, support services to families and students

“We had some opening remarks by Superintendent John Barry, staff from Judi’s House and (Aurora Police Victim Assistance Supervisor) Carol O’Shea. Aurora Mental Health gave an overview of ‘look-fors’ if someone is having difficulty,” Duran said, adding that about 25 people attended the first meeting. “We reminded everyone there to take care of themselves.”

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

AURORA | The Aurora Public Schools District’s efforts to help students, parents and teachers deal with the July 20 shootings continued this week with the first of two community meetings held at the district’s Professional Learning and Conference Center.

The event held on Sept. 17 was a joint effort between APS, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Aurora Mental Health, Aurora police and Judi’s House, a local nonprofit devoted to helping children and teens process loss and bereavement. The community meeting featured group dialogue and the opportunity to meet one-on-one with counselors, APS spokeswoman Georgia Duran said.

“We had some opening remarks by Superintendent John Barry, staff from Judi’s House and (Aurora Police Victim Assistance Supervisor) Carol O’Shea. Aurora Mental Health gave an overview of ‘look-fors’ if someone is having difficulty,” Duran said, adding that about 25 people attended the first meeting. “We reminded everyone there to take care of themselves.”

The community meeting wasn’t part of a larger push by the district in the days, weeks and months following the shootings that occurred July 20 at the Century Aurora 16 theater, an attack that killed 12 and injured 58. In the first month following the tragedy, specialists from the Cincinatti-based National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement traveled to Aurora. Pediatric specialists Dr. David Schonfeld and Daniel Nelson arrived in the days following the shooting to offer guidance directly to administration members. What’s more, APS officials revealed a specific approach that included added counselors and psychologists in buildings across the district.

Last month, officials said the district would tap into emergency funds in order to pay for additional staff, added security and at least one extra mental health professional at every high school.

“We worked last month with the experts from the center. Some people may have a response to it initially. With others, it may emerge over time. We’re making ourselves available should staff, students or parents be having issues,” Duran said. “Right now, we’re in phase three in our recovery response … We wanted feedback from staff and parents.”

The second meeting will follow a similar format and will take place at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24 at the district’s Professional Learning and Conference Center, 15771 E. 1st Ave. in Aurora.

“We’re here. We care. We’re going to provide support or help them make connections to those who can,” Duran said. “We’re opening it to the wider community. It’s for APS staff, students and the community. We’re certainly not going to turn someone away.”

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at agoldstein@aurorasentinel.com or 720-449-9707

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