Gov. Malloy announces $5 million in grants for school safety upgrades

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced last week that $5 million is being made immediately available to municipalities in the first round of school security funding under the Competitive Grant Program — a component of the Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act signed on April 4. The grants will reimburse municipalities for a portion of the costs associated with making safety and security improvements in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The governor made the announcement at Hartford’s Classical Magnet School where he was joined by  U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman were joined last week by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Chris Murphy, Congressman John Larson (D-1st) and state and local officials for a town hall-style discussion with parents, students, and school officials on education reform and school security.

“Passage of comprehensive, common sense gun violence prevention legislation was a critical first step in closing loopholes and keeping our communities safer,” Mr. Malloy said. “Now we need to get resources out to the cities and towns that have begun work to modernize their security infrastructure and ramp up safety procedures. With the support of our federal leaders — President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Connecticut’s congressional delegation — we have made important progress towards keeping our schools and communities safer.”

Administered by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), the Department of Education (SDE), and the Department of Construction Services (DCS), the funding will go to schools with the most need — buildings with little or no existing security infrastructure in school districts that are struggling financially. Two additional rounds of funding, both $5 million, are expected in the next year.

“The definition of a safe, secure learning environment has unfortunately been changed forever,” Ms. Wyman said. “This program gives us the strategy and the resources to adapt to this new reality, and is another critical step needed to protect our children and our educators.”

In addition, Mr. Duncan announced a $1.3 million Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program grant to the Newtown Public School District to assist the community recover from the shootings. The grant will support Newtown’s behavioral and academic recovery programs, initiatives that include counseling, wellness activities, and training programs designed to assist families and school staff heal after the trauma.

“This tragedy has forever changed the entire Newtown community — and our country,” Mr. Duncan said. “While we continue efforts to enact President Obama’s comprehensive approach to make our schools and communities safer, we want to do whatever we can to support ongoing recovery efforts and ensure this community has the resources it needs to meet the needs of its teachers, students, and families.”

The School Security Infrastructure Council, also formed under the new gun violence prevention legislation, is holding its first meeting next week. Its initial report outlining best practices in school safety and security is due January 2014 and will provide a framework for municipal reimbursable expenses.