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Local schools awarded safety grant

Two local school districts recently were awarded a combined $74,000 in grant money for security equipment.

District officials from East Lycoming Area School District and St. John Neumann Regional Academy, beneficiaries of the Safe Schools grant, said they plan to purchase vaping detectors and communication systems, respectively.

The state legislation, which passed last year, brought a total of about $245,000 to seven districts.

“There was approximately $60 million that was allocated for school safety programs across the state,” said Nick Troutman, communication director for state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township. “That’s a pretty substantial investment in school safety that will continue funding for the foreseeable future.”

In some past school shootings, buildings were too easy to enter for those who wished to hurt students, officials said.

“Strengthening and improving the security measures to prevent individuals from getting in schools and causing harm — that’s something that’s been our on our radar screen for some time,” he said.

The grants can also be used for counseling programs or mental health services, he added.

Yaw, in a press release, said protecting schools is “paramount.”

“No parent, teacher or student should have to worry if they are going to get home safely from school each day,” he said.

After special door locks and video cameras were installed a number of years ago in East Lycoming schools, Michael Pawlik, superintendent, said vaping has become another national health concern.

The district plans to use their $24,875 grant to address those concerns.

“The number of young adults that are vaping is something that’s concerning for everyone,” he said. “We just want to do everything in our power to not have it occur on campus and help kids not do it.”

There are many health consequences to vaping at a younger age, he said.

In the future, Pawlik said the district is seeking to expand surveillance.

“We’re always looking at what’s the next step to keep our buildings secure, from electronic locks to visitor identification systems, communication systems. It’s an ongoing process,” he said.

St. John Neumann Regional Academy, which is usually passed over for grants, is “thrilled” to be a recipient, said Christine Donahue, superintendent.

The communication system will allow all teachers to quickly call for aid in an emergency.

“We’re just so appreciative of the state who recognize the need for the non-public schools to have the same opportunity for our students and their safety (as public schools),” said Donahue.

The $49,097 grant will also be used to update the schools’ video cameras.

“Whether it’s updating the camera system that we have, or installing cameras in spots that may have gone without in previous years, we’re absolutely always looking to make improvements,” she said.

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