The last few years have not been the most secure of environments for K-12 schools. Rethinking everything from school security to overcoming the long-term effects of COVID-19 on education has required individual districts to be creative in applying resources to their programming.
Here in Ohio, K-12 schools are receiving state assistance for security upgrades to their facilities. According to Jay Carey of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, School Safety Center, the Ohio School Safety Grant Program began with $5 million in grants in 2021.
The second round of grants, under consideration now, are expected to provide nearly $47 million to 1,183 schools in 81 counties. This includes an estimated $4.1 million in grants requested by more than 50 schools in Northwest Ohio. They are located in:
- Erie County – Edison, EHOVE JVSD, Margaretta, Perkins Local, Sandusky and Townsend North Schools
- Fulton County – Archbold, Evergreen, Fayette, Pike Delta York, Swanton and Wauseon Schools
- Hancock County – Cory Rawson, Findlay, Van Buren and Vanlue Schools
- Henry County – Napoleon Schools
- Lucas County – Achieve Career Prep, Anthony Wayne, Horizon Academy, Hollingwood, Life Skills Center, Madison Avenue School of the Arts, Ohio Virtual Academy, Springfield, Sylvania, Toledo School for the Arts and Washington Local Schools
- Ottawa County – Benton Carroll Salem, Danbury and Port Clinton Schools
- Paulding County – Antwerp and Wayne Trace Schools
- Putnam County – Columbus Grove, Jennings, Miller City – New Cleveland, Ottawa Glandorf and Pandora-Gilboa Schools
- Sandusky County – Clyde-Green Springs, Fremont and Lakota Schools
- Seneca County – Hopewell-Loudon and Seneca East Schools
- Van Wert County – Lincoln View and Van Wert Schools
- Williams County – Edgerton, Millcreek – West Unity and North Central Schools
- Wood County – Bowling Green, Lake, North Baltimore and Rossford Schools
The program funding will cover expenses associated with physical security enhancements such as security cameras, public address systems, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems and exterior lighting.
JC Benton, of the Ohio Facility Construction Commission, said, “We’re in the final stages of approval and hope to have awards announced very soon. We want to make sure all schools are able to participate.” A third round of grants is expected to be announced later this fall.
Their own approach
Anthony Wayne Schools is one of the districts with an application for Ohio School Safety Grant funding, but they have developed several initiatives independent of the program. “There are many positive things going on here,” said Anthony Wayne Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Fitz. The district has used a combination of local and federal funding, along with grants, to create an overall approach to student and staff safety and growth.
Internally, “we used our Portrait of a General collective vision as a way to identify our student behaviors and expectations, and eliminate negative behavior,” said Dr. Fitz. The Portrait program helps the district articulate their aspirations for all the students, by developing skills for learning, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, adaptability and flexibility, along with empathy.
A part of this program is the Student Advisory Council, an opportunity for Dr. Fitz to hear from students regarding their educational experience at Anthony Wayne. Discussion topics are wide ranging, from classroom instruction to extracurricular activities, culture to school meals.
“Two years of COVID-19 has affected us, and will have an effect for years to come,” Dr. Fitz said. “We have to help kids and staff adjust to a new normal by determining the basic needs they have to have. It’s not a quick fix.”
The district has used a 2016 bond project to upgrade facilities around the district, and a combination of federal funds and district operational funds for additional security programs and systems, including additional:
- Threat assessment teams training
- Resource officers and security officers expanded on campus
- Hallway monitors
- Counseling services assigned throughout the campus
- Social workers
“We’re helping kids come to school ready to learn, and helping families as well,” said Dr. Fitz. “And we’re implementing the systems that help our students, along with our personnel and staff, to feel safe.”