Governor Phil Scott recently announced 239 Vermont schools have been awarded school safety grants totaling $4 million, which will fund infrastructure upgrades designed to improve school safety.
This funding is possible through a $5 million funding package proposed by Scott and passed by the Legislature this spring.
An initial $4 million in grants will fund 560 separate projects in 239 schools to help tighten security and notification infrastructure. Purchases will include interior and exterior door locks, indoor and outdoor public address systems and other infrastructure upgrades to improve safety. Schools were eligible for up to $25,000 and will be responsible for a 25 percent grant match. The average award is around $16,000. The funds will be distributed by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
In addition to this grant funding, another $1 million will be available this fall to support schools in developing emergency plans, training and safety exercises.
“Getting these projects started quickly will help students, staff and administrators focus on learning,” said Scott. “Looking ahead, we will continue to do all we can to enhance the safety of our schools for our children, parents, faculty and the community, including leveraging $1 million from the Homeland Security Grant Program to support planning and training, and working with the Legislature to fund additional infrastructure improvements and preparedness across the entire education system.”
“These grants are an important step in our effort to increase the safety of the children and employees in our schools,” said Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland), who chaired the Senate Institutions Committee, said.
A statewide safety assessment, directed by Scott and conducted on schools throughout Vermont earlier this year, helped schools and state officials identify needs and priority projects for the available funding.
“Following a statewide safety assessment of schools in March and funding approval by the Legislature, a 12-member committee of school administrators, emergency responders and representatives from the state prioritized a list of measures schools could take to make facilities more secure and better notify staff of an emergency,” Scott said. “This working group used the list as the basis for scoring applications and for making award recommendations to the Department of Public Safety.”
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas D. Anderson praised the work of the 12-member committee. “We asked this committee to do a tremendous amount of work in a very short period of time,” Anderson said. “Without their dedication and hard work, we would not have been able to get these funds awarded in time for the upcoming school year.”
In July, as part of the governor’s overall strategy to improve school safety, Vermont Emergency Management and the Vermont School Safety Center hosted a series of crisis communications trainings to improve school safety. More than 100 superintendents, principals and school staff from around the state took part. Additional training courses will be held during the school year.
“The response from our schools to this safety initiative has been remarkable,” said Deputy Secretary of Education Heather Bouchey. “We look forward to continuing our work with Vermont’s schools, the Department of Public Safety and the Vermont School Safety Center to make our schools as safe as possible.”