By MADELINE HUGHES
The Champlain Valley School District received just over $115,000 from the state for safety updates to its six schools and work is underway to make those improvements, district officials said.
The grant awards were announced by the state in August. Individual schools were able to request up to $25,000 after the state appropriated $4 million for infrastructure updates to 239 schools. The state also doled out another $1 million from federal government funding for planning and training.
The push to make the upgrades came as lawmakers, state education officials and local school administrators heightened their focus on school safety earlier this year following the school shooting where 14 people were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A few days later, police foiled a student’s plot to shoot up his former high school in Fair Haven, Vt.
Student-led demonstrations and walkouts across Vermont and the nation after the tragedy sparked a closer look at safety in Vermont schools and led to the state grant funding being approved.
The state asked local school officials this spring to assess their needs to make buildings safer and then apply for grants for specific improvements. Champlain Valley School District requested funding for a total of 23 projects across its six schools; money for 18 projects was approved, said Jeanne Jensen, the district’s chief operations officer.
Many of the measures will not be immediately noticeable in schools, Jensen said. One example of a visible change will be what grant documents described as an “audio visual lock down alert” system. That means that students will now see new flashing lights when fire alarms are activated.
Here’s a breakdown by school of the grants received and how the funding will be used:
• Allen Brook School in Williston received $22,196 for all of its requested projects. Grant funds will pay for exterior security cameras, locks for classroom doors, and window upgrades.
• Charlotte Central School received $24,150 for all of its proposed projects. The grant will allow the school to add a monitoring and lock system for outside entrances.
• Champlain Valley Union High School received $23,437 for all of the projects it requested including a campus security monitoring system and exterior window shades.
• Hinesburg Community School received $4,500 for the flashing lights system. Its request for an additional $13,050 was not approved. Jensen said some of the projects requested by Hinesburg were a reach for the grant program. “That’s a reflection that Hinesburg is further along in those security projects,” she said.
• Shelburne Community School received $16,125 which will pay for an access control system to allow people in and out of the school building. An $8,625 request for “electronic crash bars,” which are the door handles which activate alarms if opened, was denied.
• Williston Central School received $24,930 to pay for both interior and exterior cameras, as well as upgrading the windows.
The Citizen/Shelburne News obtained the details of the projects to be funded by the grants through a public records request to the school district. School officials initially would not release specifics about how the state grants would be spent, citing security concerns.