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New Safety And Security Grants Available To Vermont Schools

School bus
Pat Bradley/WAMC

Vermont Governor Phil Scott has announced that $1.5 million in additional funding is available for school safety and security improvements.
This is the second time the Vermont Legislature has approved funding for the state’s School Safety and Security Grant Program.  Schools can apply for up to $25,000 and are responsible for a 25 percent match.  Vermont Emergency Management School Safety Grants Program Manager Sunni Eriksen says schools that didn’t receive funding in the first round are eligible to apply this time.  “Under the School Safety and Security Grant Program there are criteria for the projects. Give you an example of some of those categories are like the exterior door locks, interior door locks, mass notification systems or public address systems, audio and visual monitoring devices, window shading so that you can’t see in to the windows from outside for classrooms or for offices. Also like an electronic visitor management system, an indoor alarm for when they’re open to let you know if there’s been a breach in the door opening. Those are possible projects on the infrastructure improvements.”

Vermont Principals Association Executive Director Jay Nichols says some schools that received grants last year used the funds to improve overall security while others targeted problem areas.  “It’s always a heightened priority. You know when you become a principal the two most important things are the safety of your kids and then providing the best instructional environment. And by instructional environment I mean not just academically but the culture of the building, the climate of the building, that type of thing.  Those are usually the two fundamental things that principals really focus on. So any money that can help with the physical components related to school safety such as cameras and things like that the better.”

The Vermont NEA worked with the governor’s office and the Agency of Education on a “See Something Say Something” video challenge. Spokesman Darren Allen says both types of programs – improving physical spaces and heightening awareness – are crucial to school security.   "We don’t want our schools to become unwelcoming. We don’t want our schools to become fortresses. We don’t want our schools to be places where students and educators and parents and community members are afraid. We want them to be places that they always have been which are nurturing and as open as they can be and a haven so that everybody in that building can get on with the business of learning and teaching and nurturing one another.”

In the first round of grants, $4 million dollars was distributed to 241 schools for 567 projects. The deadline for applications for this round is August 5th.

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