While policymakers and pundits are still debating what changes should be made in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, the Neag School of Education is giving graduate students, teachers, and administrators from across New England practical training in how to prepare for and respond to crises of all sizes.
The nationally acclaimed PREPaRE program, developed by the National Association of School Psychologists, will be held next week in Storrs for the first time. Faculty in the school psychology program have worked to organize the event, with co-sponsorship by the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists.
Co-organizer Shamim Patwa, assistant professor-in-residence of educational psychology, says, “The workshops are a valuable service that UConn can offer to the larger community at a time when schools across the country are examining how to keep our schools safe and to meet needs in the face of crisis.”
The PREPaRE model consists of two workshops: a one-day training on school safety and crisis prevention, and a two-day session on responding to crises. The training sessions are highly sought after by school safety professionals, psychologists, administrators, and others. Thanks to a financial commitment from the Neag School of Education, Neag students will attend the workshops free of charge, while other participants can register at a substantially reduced cost.
“Both of these workshops are sorely needed right now,” says educational psychology professor Sandra Chafouleas, one of the eventʼs organizers. “Connecting with local school administrators and teachers in the weekend following Newtown, there was a lot of discussion around being prepared yet still scared about opening schools on Monday morning.”
Patwa says the response has been overwhelming, with the two-day workshop over-enrolled and only a few spots remaining in the one-day crisis prevention session.
“The first part of understanding the need for this training is knowing that at some point, there will be a crisis that impacts every school,” Chafouleas says. “Itʼs not necessarily going to be one of huge magnitude that gets so much media attention, but you still need to be prepared. Schools see it all.”
The first workshop will train participants in everything from how school buildings can be made as safe as possible to designing a crisis response plan. The two-day workshop, aimed more at mental health professionals and school crisis response teams, will train participants in what to do once the crisis has occurred.
“An important piece of that workshop is learning whether a crisis is something you can handle in the school, or whether additional connections to resources in the community are needed to successfully address it,” says Chafouleas.
The program is scheduled to run in May at Storrs, under the direction of Melissa Reeves and Amanda Nickerson, two of the professionals who developed the PREPaRE program.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that the faculty in our Neag School of Education is doing to promote effective practices for school safety,” says Provost Mun Choi. “We are delighted to host the PREPaRE training workshops to ensure that school-based professionals have recent, evidence-based training.”