Safety grants awarded to local school districts

Several local school districts have been awarded funding through a new state School Safety and Security Grant Program it was announced by state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock.

Among the eligible uses cited for the grants are hiring school security officers, purchasing security-related technology and offering counseling services for students.

“These grants would not have been possible without the bipartisan cooperation of lawmakers and the valuable input of schools, teachers, students, law enforcement and other experts in school safety,” Senator Yaw said. “Protecting our schools was a point of emphasis for me during the budget process, and I am grateful that our local schools will soon see the benefits of this additional grant funding.”

One of the largest grants, $390,499, went to the Loyalsock Township School District. According to Gerald McLaughlin, district superintendent, the grant will be used to “complete a lot of our safety concerns and help us to continue to support the students and staff.”

Specifically the monies will be used to install safety and security window film around all the entrances to the schools, He noted that in the event of an attack on a school building, if a gun was fired at the entrance, the glass would hold together and not shatter.

“It would allow officers time to respond,” he said.

Prior to applying for the grant, the district had conducted an assessment of safety and security needs and had cited concerns with the need to update and add security cameras throughout the district. With the grant, the district will be updating security cameras on school buses, as well as adding and replacing cameras on the exteriors of school buildings.

McLaughlin said that the bus camera system has been in use for nine years and that the technology at this point is “outdated and cumbersome to use.”

“The new bus camera system is needed in order to monitor both student issues as well as monitor driving habits for our school bus drivers. New software has the ability to track bus location as well as review driver interaction with students, monitor stops and speed of our vehicles,” the district stated in applying for the grant.

Work on replacing the cameras on the buses will be conducted over the summer, McLaughlin said.

In addition to placing cameras at the various school buildings, the district has targeted reworking the entrances to the buildings as another security improvement.

McLaughlin said that the district has some preliminary designs and will be working with an architect in moving forward with the project.

The addition of a school-based counselor to support existing counselors to specifically provide trauma support with mental health issues to students in grades K-12 and their families, will also be financed through the grant.

McLaughlin added that the district was happy with the results of the grant.

The Williamsport Area School District received $165,402 in grant monies. In a statement from a district spokesperson, it was noted that “the school district identified two areas that needed improvement based on discussions with its incident command team, which is made up of administrators and emergency providers in the area.

“Back in 2017, the district identified some significant issues with its aging radio system that is used daily by district transportation and staff in schools. Part of the awarded funds will be used to enhance and improve the district-wide radio and communications systems. The other part of the awarded funds will be to purchase and install over 70 security cameras in our K-6 buildings to enhance and improve security in those schools,” they stated.

Other local school districts receiving grants were: Montoursville Area, $194,064; Muncy, $50,000; Sullivan County, $43,362; East Lycoming, $42,900 and Lewisburg Area, $40,638.