School district awarded sexual health education grant

The Vashon Island School District is one of 16 Washington schools recently selected to take part in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) project to improve sexual health education.

The grant will provide $500 this year and up to $10,000 over the next four years, according to officials at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), who selected the schools that will participate.

At the school district, curriculum director Roxanne Lyons said representatives from the district will meet with OPSI staff members this spring to evaluate CDC recommendations on sexual health education in grades six through 12 and determine how those recommendations square with what the district currently offers.

“We will ask what are we doing, where are the holes and what makes sense for us to tackle and then we will plan accordingly,” she said.

School districts were selected based on a variety of categories determined by the CDC, including demonstration of need, the presence of an existing science-based sexual health education program and the districts’ readiness and ability to implement changes, said Marissa Rathbone, OSPI’s program supervisor for HIV and sex health education.

Laurie Dils, also with OSPI, said that while Vashon did not score highly on need, it did score highly in the other areas, and she noted enthusiasm for the project on Vashon.

“They are definitely ready and interested in pursuing this,” she said. “Their ongoing efforts have not been as extensive as some school staff would like to see or as comprehensive as they would like.”

Rathbone said as the study progresses, those involved will look at district and school resources, the community climate and need and will make different suggestions for different schools. She noted that the program’s goals are to help schools provide exemplary sexual health education, ensure that sexual health services are available to teens, assist in creating or maintaining a safe and supportive school environment and implement state policy on sexual health education.

It is unclear yet how much each school will receive, Rathbone said, but the funds will likely go toward professional development and to purchasing curriculum and materials.

Lyons noted that the planning phase for the grant is beginning now and will happen quickly, ending in June, at which point she will know more about what changes the district will make.

“We are ramping up at lightning speed,” she said.

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