As school security continues to remain at the forefront of many conversations, more and more counties and districts are offering school safety grants and funding to improve school security measures.
Burlington County, the second largest county in New Jersey, announced Tuesday it will be allocating $20 million of its capital budget to fund school security building upgrades in 21 public high schools, calling it the first in the state, reports NJ.com.
“Over the past few months we have been seeing tragedy after tragedy,” said freeholder director Kate Gibbs. “I talked to my team and asked them what we can we do in a real way to make a difference and we took a hard look at our capital budget and decided there were some real things we can defer to make this a priority.”
Each school interested in participating in the voluntary program must file a grant application to the county and agree to a security evaluation.
The county will then fund enhancements based on the evaluation, which could include new entrance vestibules, access control systems, portable screening devices, panic alarms, entry buzzers and security cameras.
Officials said the program will not increase taxes but did not elaborate on if the county would be taking on debt to fund it.
“We always try to keep our debt service even or less so we can continue our tradition of fiscal responsibility,” Gibbs said.
Christopher Heilig, superintendent of Rancocas Valley Regional High School, said he plans to apply for a $1 million grant for a “hardened vestibule” that will allow school officials to better screen the 2,100 students and additional visitors that enter the building daily.
“For us superintendents, safety and security is the number one priority all day every day,” he said. “There was a time when the number one thought was getting face-time with students, and it is. But the number one priority is security.”
Wisconsin AG Announces School Safety Grants for 20 Schools
In Wisconsin, Attorney General Brad Schimel announced Wednesday a list of 20 schools that have been awarded the next round of grants through the Wisconsin Department of Justice School Safety Grant Program, according to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
The 20 schools will receive a combined $1,382,045 to be spent on building safety improvements, including shatter-resistant film for school entry areas, updated camera systems, improved notification systems and the addition of ADA and fire code compliant locks and fencing.
It also includes training for faculty and staff, which will require a minimum of three hours of training in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Trauma-Informed Care/Trauma Sensitive Schools (TIC/TSS) for all staff members before the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
Schools that apply for the grants are required to partner with law enforcement agencies to ensure that proposed expenses, visitor protocols and school safety plans will be effective.
“This collaborative grant is a vital step in keeping our children, faculty and staff safe while in school,” said Kewaskum Police Chief Thomas Bishop. “The Kewaskum School District and the Kewaskum Police Department have a great partnership that values safety and security in our schools and this grant funding will allow us to further that objective.”
The largest of the 20 school safety grants, which amounts to $279,927, was given to the Stevens Point Area School District, reports The Stevens Point Journal.
Brian Casey, the Stevens Point schools director of technology who coordinated the district’s grant application, said they will use the money to upgrade its radio communications systems from analog to digital, to install or upgrade existing video surveillance systems and to add extra public-address systems to existing technology to improve alarms and announcements.
The grant money is pro-rated by school district size and capped at $30,000 per school, according to Casey. The Stevens Point Area School District is one of the largest in the state with 14 schools and 16 facilities.
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