The U.S. Department of Education is awarding another $3.1 million to Newtown schools to help students and staff in their continuing recovery from the December 2012 shooting deaths of 20 children and six educators.
Newtown Schools Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr. said the school system will use the funding to hire grief counselors and mental health professionals.
"This will allow us to have school social workers, school counselors, school psychologists, a leadership team that is deeply vested in all students and their recovery, along with our staff," Erardi said in an exclusive interview with NBC Connecticut on Wednesday.
The $3.1 million is for programs operating in this school year and for 2015-16.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown, said $16.5 million in total has been received from the departments of Education and Justice.
Erardi said that despite the passage of time, Newtown’s students, staff and parents still require extensive support.
He said he believes the town and the schools are still at the beginning of recovery, and that extending the support system may not have been possible without help from Washington.
"The step moving forward gives the Newtown Board of Education the resources, quite honestly, that would be very difficult to bring forward," Erardi explained.
Members of Connecticut's congressional delegation, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, said the grant is crucial.
"[The community] needs to continue healing. That's why this grant is so important," Blumenthal said, "because it gives the strong, courageous people of Newtown the kind of support they need to continue the healing, coming together and moving forward, which they're doing."
Erardi said it's a slow but important process for the community.
"It offers the Newtown community, our students, our staff, our parents, the opportunity to recover and rebuild," he said.