By Curt Peterson
The Windsor Central Union School District was awarded $129,000 by the Vermont Emergency Management Department for school security upgrades. District superintendent Mary Beth Banios told the WCUSD board on Dec. 16 the money would be in hand within a week.
The Legislature and Gov. Phil Scott have worked together to improve security for students, faculty and employees since the Parkland, Florida school shooting incident in 2017 and a planned school shooting at Fair Haven High School was thwarted in 2019.
The 2019 funding totals $1.5 million statewide. School districts will be required to contribute 25% of the cost of all projects, and can’t apply “in-kind” credits, i.e., employee-installation time, as matching funds. Work must be completed in 2020.
WCUSD Director of Facilities and Operations Joe Rigoli provided information for the grant request, and the award was announced June 15 this year. Rigoli reported that the six district buildings will be affected.
According to the Vermont Emergency Management website, examples of eligible enhancements include interior and exterior lock mechanisms, protective window shading, school communications system improvements, ingress and egress control systems and exterior lighting.
Rigoli told the board specific upgrades within the district will involve security cameras, improved lighting, doorway buzzers, security windows, doors and locks.
Sherry Sousa, member of the Campus Configuration Committee, told the board there are individual grants for each school applying specified amounts up to $25,000.
Regarding school communications, a 2018 survey conducted by Vermont Emergency Management indicated only one third of Vermont schools have installed qualified E911 systems in their buildings, a precautionary upgrade recommended by the state. An E911 system would inform first responders from what location within a school an emergency call originated – important information that could save lives.
In the WCUSD district, only the Woodstock campus and Woodstock Elementary schools and currently unused Prosper Valley School in Pomfret were “E911 compliant” when the 2018 survey was completed.
Bainos said all schools in the district are now E911 compliant.