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Schools earn grants for safety projects

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Bartholomew County’s two public school districts have won grants from the state Department of Homeland Security to complete safety projects at reduced costs to taxpayers.

The money — $50,000 for Bartholomew Consolidated and $18,053.50 for Flat Rock-Hawcreek — was awarded through the Secured School Safety Grant program, created in 2013 to make Hoosier schools safer.

The legislation provides $20 million to be distributed over two years. Schools can apply for up to $50,000 — or up to $35,000 for school districts with fewer than 1,000 students — and must match the grant with school funds.

Of the more than $9 million awarded this year, $5 million will go toward purchasing equipment to restrict access to schools or expedite the notification of first responders and $4 million will be used to employ school resource officers.

An additional $32,000 was granted to conduct threat assessments in four districts.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

For the second year in a row, BCSC has received state funds to supplement the cost of putting officers Julie Quesenbery and Eric Stevens in the schools.

The resource officers are full-time Columbus Police Department employees, and BCSC reimburses the city for their salary and benefits. Each officer costs $74,310 per year, bringing the total cost for BCSC to $148,620.

With the $50,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security, the district’s cost is cut to $98,620.

The grant funds the partnership through the end of the current contract, which expires in December 2015. However, the document has a clause that says the contract will renew for an additional two years unless either party objects.

Larry Perkinson, student assistance coordinator for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said he has heard only positive comments on the

program, and he hopes the school resource officers will become common practice with the school district and across the country.

“It’s a great community partnership,” he said. “It gives us access to officers in our school, officers who know our kids and who have a sense of our routines. They are officers that certainly all of our students would learn to trust.”

Neighboring Jennings County School Corp. also was granted $21,600 to employ a school resource officer.

Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp.

As Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. prepares to install equipment purchased from last year’s funds, officials received news of the additional grant.

The district was awarded $11,475 in the prior grant cycle to install buzzers on all school entries. The main doors will be equipped with buzzers that require visitors to identify themselves to school personnel before the doors open. All other doors will be equipped with devices that alert staff if doors are not closed properly.

Superintendent Kathy Griffy said that project will be installed this summer after a lengthy paperwork process.

This year’s $18,053.50 grant will be used to install GPS communication devices in all school buses. With the new equipment, Hope Police Department can communicate directly with drivers in emergency situations. GPS locator information also will be transmitted directly to school offices and police.

Griffey said the grants allow the district to make safety upgrades quicker.

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