State grant supports school security

Following last year’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut will distribute $5 million to partially reimburse 169 schools for improvements to their security resources.
Following last year’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut will distribute $5 million to partially reimburse 169 schools for improvements to their security resources. Photo by Brianne Bowen.

Nine months after the Newtown shooting, 169 Connecticut schools will receive state funds to improve and upgrade their security resources as part of the first round of the state’s Competitive Grant Program.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced last week that these schools — located across 36 Connecticut districts — will split $5 million in state funding as a partial reimbursement for the costs associated with installing new security infrastructure.

“After the horrific events on December 14, Connecticut cities and towns moved swiftly to improve security infrastructures at schools in need,” Malloy said in a press release accompanying the announcement. “We will never be able to prevent every random act, but we can take the steps necessary to make sure that our children and our teachers are as safe as possible.”

The schools were selected from a pool of 604 applicants that were evaluated based on their current security configurations and on the district’s wealth, with priority given to schools that had limited or no pre-existing security measures.

The awards, which will be administered by the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, will allow the schools to develop their own security upgrade projects, including installation of surveillance cameras, ballistic glass, computer-controlled electronic locks and entry-door buzzer systems, according to Scott Devico, spokesman for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Costs associated with hiring and maintaining security personnel or sworn police officers will not be covered by the grant, Devico added.

Each municipality, he added, will be reimbursed between 20 and 80 percent of their total security expenses, depending on the town wealth, which is defined by the municipality’s property tax base and the income of its residents.

The Competitive Grant Program was developed as part of the Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act, the bipartisan legislation passed in April in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14, 2012.

“The tragic events of that day will never be forgotten,” said State Sen. Toni Boucher, a co-chair of the task force committee on school security and one of six GOP senators who voted for the Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act.

West Haven Public Schools, just a 12-minute drive southwest of Yale’s central campus, was one of the 36 districts selected in the first round of the program. Two school buildings within the West Haven Public Schools district will receive funding totaling over $22,000 to purchase modern surveillance cameras that will be installed at 16 sites throughout each building, said the district’s superintendent Neil Cavallaro.

“We’re a community that doesn’t have a lot of means or resources,” Cavallaro said, calling the Competitive Grant Program a “success” which will allow the schools in his district to upgrade an otherwise “antiquated” security system. “We already had a plan in mind [to improve our security resources], and now we are getting some money back to either save or expand on the project.” He added that additional funding could be used to upgrade school badges and identification cards for entry into the school buildings.

The Governor’s Office will discuss the second round of the Competitive Grant Program, which would allocate an additional $10 million for school security upgrades, this Friday.

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