RNESU scores grants to make Brandon-area schools safer

BRANDON — School safety is the focus of new grant funds that area schools will be putting to work starting this year. Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union’s schools will receive a total of $176,575 to aid in school safety planning and training. The school board has approved a 25 percent match. 
The largest recipient of these is Otter Valley Union High School, which is slated to receive $44,500, to be split between the main and north campuses. 
Principal James Avery said $25,000 has been slated for replacing any locks on interior doors to be able to lock from the inside and installing a key-swipe access system for exterior doors. The north campus will use its $19,500 to install a similar keyless access system and modify its existing public address system to broadcast messages to the exterior of the building.
Recently installed safety systems at the high school include a “buzz entry” system and exterior cameras. 
“We’re just glad that we’re getting the support that the state has given out,” Avery said. 
Other area schools that received grant funding include: Barstow Memorial, $21,750; Leicester Central School, $25,000; and Lothrop Elementary, $25,000. Proctor’s elementary school will receive $14,767.50 and Proctor High School will receive $16,949.30. 
A group of 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 part of a $5 million package proposed by Governor Phil 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. The average award is around $16,000. The funds will be distributed by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
“Getting these projects started quickly will help students, staff and administrators focus on learning,” said Scott in a press release. “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.” 
Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield, and Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Pittsford/Brandon, said the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions — the committee responsible for developing the budget for buildings and other non-transportation infrastructure — was grateful the Legislature supported these investments in school safety. Emmons is chair of the committee. Shaw is vice chair.
“As a member of the House Corrections and Institutions Committee, I am very pleased that the committee recommended funding the governor’s school safety grant program this year. I am looking forward to seeing the results that will be achieved in our efforts to ensure we continue to have safe and healthy schools,” said Shaw. “The only thing our kids should have to worry about in school is whether or not they’ve completed their homework or prepared enough for the big test.”
The grants are the results of a statewide safety assessment, directed by the governor and conducted at schools throughout Vermont earlier this year, which helped schools and state officials identify needs and priority projects. 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 huge, gaping piece that this grant doesn’t cover is building a community that is safety minded that speaks up whenever they see something,” said RNESU superintendent Jeanne Collins. “That doesn’t require a grant, but I continue to be concerned with student safety

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