SWCS looks for extra funds for safety
The South-Western City Schools Board of Education will try to secure federal funds to upgrade safety and security in the schools.
At a recent meeting, Gary Sigrist, project coordinator for the Readiness and Emergency Management in Schools (REMS), told the board the district would ask for $500,000 in grants. The district received federal safety funds a few years ago, which allowed the district to update its safety measures.
“The grant gave us a wonderful opportunity for security for our students,” said Superintendent Bill Wise. “Hopefully, we can do more with more grant money.”
Sigrist explained that with the last round of federal dollars, the district was able to develop a partnership with all the emergency responders within district boundaries. There are four law enforcement jurisdictions and five fire departments within the district. The district has also formed partnerships with other emergency agencies including the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Franklin County EMA and the FBI.
The funds helped to put a pandemic and infectious disease program in place.
Sigrist said the district is ahead of the game as far as the H1N1 influenza virus is concerned. He said a pandemic plan is in place and they are continually working to prevent the spread of the virus in all the buildings and the buses.
Sigrist explained that when a student was out sick, district employees would talk to the parents about specific symptoms.
“This was helpful at the start of the H1N1 virus when there was lots of hysteria,” said Sigrist.
The interview helped to rule out cases. With the help of the Franklin County Board of Health, the district has also posted H1N1 information on its Web site.
The federal safety funds helped put a plan in place to assess each facility for security and vulnerability.
Sigrist said he talked with all building principals to make sure all the doors were locked and all visitors needed to check in with the main office before heading into the school halls. He also said the assessment allowed him to review chemicals in the buildings and make sure they were stored properly.
The district still has some funds left over from the last federal safety grant and Sigrist said there is work still in progress.
He said they are still looking into a mass notification plan and parent guide. The district is also working with the FBI and Secret Service on a threat assessment team.
Sigrist said staff members and students need to recognize what is a real threat. He explained that students may say things like “I want to kill someone.” Sometimes that is a student letting off steam; sometimes it is serious.
“We need to know how to spot a real threat,” said Sigrist.
He said they are also still working on continuing education for staff members.
The district would need to apply for the next REMS grant by Dec. 15.
Sigrist said these funds would be helpful for the new required radio system for buses. He explained in 2013, the government will mandate radio upgrades. This will be similar to the analog to digital television switch.
Sigrist also said the funds could be used to purchase a generator for the district service center. A few weeks ago, someone stole copper wires from an electrical substation and cut power to the district office. The computer server is located at the district service center so no one in the district could access e-mail.
The U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Homeland Security award the grant. Recipients will be announced in the summer of 2010.