Secure Our Schools Grant Funding

In January 2012, a fire started just south of Reno in Nevada’s Washoe County. Here’s a look at the Washoe Drive Fire according to the numbers: Even with a fire making its destructive way toward them, the staff and students did not fall into chaos...

Due to the predominately rural demographics of Henry County, the sheriffs office requested SOS grant funding with a different vision. The Henry County Sheriffs Office received SOS grants for numerous years, including 2009, 2010 and 2011. “The original (COPS) grant was to place an SRO in the district,” explains Denise Perry, director of student services, Henry County Public Schools. The district includes five schools with a student population of 22,000. “One of the big things we’ve used the money for is digital monitoring equipment for the school buses,” explains Perry. “That was the first (SOS) grant we wrote. We started putting VCR systems on the buses.” The district has a large sparsely populated geography. Kids from all grade levels ride the same buses and some students have an hour and a half ride each way per day. The district runs 26 bus routes with over 2,500 miles each school day.

Safety on the roads for the general public and safety and security of the students is what Henry County hopes to accomplish with its grant money. Although it only received a small grant ($11,045 in 2010 and $6,970 in 2011) in comparison to the maximum amount, Henry County has done a lot with it, putting in secure entry systems in the middle and elementary schools, installing an emergency notification system, as well as placing video systems at the high school and middle school campus. “The high school is the primary large venue for any community event, so it helps because the sheriff’s office is responsible for law enforcement there during school hours and out of school events,” explains Perry.

Washoe County, Nev.

In another variation for SOS funding, Washoe County not only used its grant for the training, which helped out in the fire, but also for a variety of other security and safety advances. “This is our second one,” states Mieras. “Our original one (was) to put cameras in our high schools and middle schools. We put in for another one to secure the perimeter and to change out some of the old outdated locks in the schools.” In 2011, the county received the maximum amount: $500,000. Washoe County’s relationship with the school district began way before the SOS funding. “I put in a grant six years ago through the Department of Education,” states Mieras. “We got almost a million for emergency management and that funding didn’t last very long, so we looked into additional funding because when we went into the schools, we realized there were a lot of other things we need funding for.” The district has 112 K-12 schools with a student population of 65,000. The main focus of the 2011 grant is to replace the interior locks. “We have older locks,” explains Mieras. “If we have a lock-down situation or worse case scenario, an active assailant, the teachers currently would have to step out into the hallway, the danger zone, to lock the door. With this new grant, they can lock from inside the classroom.”

Springfield, Ore.

Springfield hosts a population of around 68,000 students with half living below the poverty line. A local high school, Thurston, was also the scene of a tragic school shooting in 1998. “When we got our first Secure our Schools grant, it helped with some security work out at Thurston High School,” explains Michael Harman, services bureau manager at the Springfield Police Department. “They had the teachers, staff, parents, facility and maintenance staff just ... walk around and give their perspective on what was necessary and what would work the best, and kind of through that whole process they developed a security template and then applied that to the different schools.” So in 2009, the school and PD received $75,505 in SOS funding to bring the middle schools to the standards and in 2010, $94,402 to bring the elementary schools up. “The middle school grant is finished,” states Harman. “The elementary school is a work in progress.”

The ability to adjust the grant was an important piece to Springfield due to city decisions to close several schools and change the grade level of another. “We are in the process right now of doing a grant adjustment with the COPS office so that we’ll pull the funding at the (closed) schools and reallocate it at the other projects,” explains Harman. “The grant adjustment is usually pretty simple. The COPS office is usually really good and has pleasant people to work with.”

In the elementary schools and the middle schools, the district put in building and remote monitoring of the campuses. Another technological improvement was the implementation of a card access system which allows greater control. “If you’re a custodian, your card works when it needs to work,” explains Harman. “”If you’re a teacher, you have a card and whatever schools you’re assigned to your card is programmed for them. If you change schools, you don’t have to remember to get your key.” It also prevents the district from having to re-key all the doors if someone is not suppose to have access anymore. “With a card lock system, if a card is lost, you just go into the computer and deactivate that card and it doesn’t work anymore,” explains Harman. “It’s cost effective. It’s fast. These are all things for the district.”

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