State awards school security grant to Wilton
The money is part of a competitive state grant program, introduced following last December’s Sandy Hook tragedy.
“The matching funds are money we budgeted for,” said Ken Post, director of financial planning for Wilton Public School. “We budgeted for the entire amount and the state will reimburse us for a portion of it, based on a sliding scale.”
According to the press release from the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, “each municipality will be reimbursed between 20 and 80 percent according to town wealth, as defined in subdivision (26) of section 10-262f of the Connecticut General Statutes. Funds from municipalities, which total $15,297,388, will be matched with $16,001,146 in state funding for an overall $31,298,534 investment in school security among 435 schools.”
Those schools stretch across 75 school districts in Connecticut.
“We spoke to the towns and they said they have the matching funds,” said Scott DeVico of the DESPP. “We don’t know their budgets but I assume it is something they budgeted for.”
Additionally, Mr. DeVico said, the work could have started prior to the announcement of the grant and can be reimbursed, so long as no state or federal funds were previously used. Therefore, the projects could have been previously built into a local budget.
Mr. Post confirmed that this was indeed the case in Wilton.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), a member of both the education and higher education committees, expressed her pleasure at seeing this come to fruition.
“School safety and security is a top priority for the district, and Wilton’s Security Task Force has been working hard to assess the security needs of our schools and make recommendations,” she said. “I’m very pleased that Wilton has been chosen to receive these funds to help ensure everyone’s safety.”
According to a press release, two schools in Wilton are scheduled to receive the grant. Neither the DESPP nor Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Richards would specify the schools.
The press release indicated that security improvements can be put toward any of the following:
• Development or improvement of security infrastructure.
• School personnel training in the operation and maintenance of the new or improved security structure.
• Purchase of portable entrance security devices, including metal detector wands, screening machines, and related training.
• Installation of surveillance cameras.
• Penetration-resistant vestibules.
• Ballistic glass.
• Solid-core doors.
• Double-door access.
• Computer-controlled electronic locks.
• Entry door buzzer systems.
• Scan card systems.
• Panic alarms or other systems.
“We generally don’t comment on where we’ve spent the security funds, but the items we allocated the funds to were on the list that was attached to your memo,” Dr. Richards said.
The grants are administered by the DESPP, the Department of Education and the Department of Construction Services. The funding will go to schools with the most need, such as those with limited security infrastructure.
State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26), the ranking senator on the general assembly’s Education and Higher Education committees, and the chair of the Bipartisan School Safety Working Group said the program will defray a portion of the cost.
“We’re pleased to know that schools in our district are making improvements in security and infrastructure,” she said. “This state funding will help them pay for costly items that will help make our children and teachers safer when they are in school.”
Elsewhere in the area, Ridgefield will receive nearly $173,000 in grants, while Redding will get $147,000.
Other Fairfield County school districts are receiving large sums of money for security upgrades. Greenwich received a total of $1.37 million in state and local matching funds for security needs at 17 of its schools. Fairfield will upgrade 18 schools at a total cost of $535,594.
The Milford school district is picking up the largest sum, with $2,827,789. The state is putting in $1.3 million of the total, with the local match being just over $1.5 million.
The total dollar amount that could be applied for was $5 million.
The numbers come from a database supplied by the DESPP.
“This allows us to continue to get resources out to the cities and towns that have begun work to modernize their security infrastructure and ramp up safety procedures at school buildings in the wake of the horrific events on Dec. 14,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. “We will never be able to prevent every random act of violence, but we can take the steps necessary to make sure that our children and our teachers are as safe as possible. This funding allows an additional 435 schools to implement modern security measures that will make schools safer.”
According to the state, all Connecticut public schools are eligible for the funding. However, private, charter, parochial, and state technical schools are not included. Additionally, colleges and universities are not part of the program.
Funds may not be acquired prior to the beginning of upgrades. The program is for reimbursement of work, with backup documentation, including invoices and proof of payment, being required.
All projects must be completed within two years of the date of the award, according to the state.
A safe school facilities checklist, from the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities and funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, is available at ct.gov/demhs/cwp.
“Public safety is a core function of our government, especially when it comes to our children’s safety and security,” DESPP Commissioner Reuben F. Bradford said.
One more round of funding is expected to be awarded next year.