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updated: 5/19/2014 10:56 AM

Fox Valley area schools get state funding to improve security

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  • Highland Elementary School home-school liaison Carlos Trujillo demonstrates how the school's new key fob system works. In addition to key fobs, the Elgin school already is using a new security camera system covering the main entrance. New key fobs and security cameras will be installed at all Elgin Area School District U-46 elementary schools using a $1 million grant.

       Highland Elementary School home-school liaison Carlos Trujillo demonstrates how the school's new key fob system works. In addition to key fobs, the Elgin school already is using a new security camera system covering the main entrance. New key fobs and security cameras will be installed at all Elgin Area School District U-46 elementary schools using a $1 million grant.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Centennial Elementary School in Bartlett is one of several schools in Elgin Area School District U-46 that will be made more secure through grant funding. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recently awarded $25 million to enhance security at schools and college campuses. Highland Elementary School in Elgin already is using a key fob system and security cameras covering the main entrance that will be installed at several U-46 schools.

       Centennial Elementary School in Bartlett is one of several schools in Elgin Area School District U-46 that will be made more secure through grant funding. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recently awarded $25 million to enhance security at schools and college campuses. Highland Elementary School in Elgin already is using a key fob system and security cameras covering the main entrance that will be installed at several U-46 schools.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Highland Elementary School home-school liaison Carlos Trujillo demonstrates how the school's new key fob system works.

       Highland Elementary School home-school liaison Carlos Trujillo demonstrates how the school's new key fob system works.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • This is part of the new door lock and key fob system at Highland Elementary School in Elgin, which will become a standard feature, along with new security cameras, at the main entrances of all Elgin Area School District U-46 elementary schools.

       This is part of the new door lock and key fob system at Highland Elementary School in Elgin, which will become a standard feature, along with new security cameras, at the main entrances of all Elgin Area School District U-46 elementary schools.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Highland Elementary School in Elgin has a new security camera system that covers the main entrance to the school. Similar security enhancements will be made at the main entrances of several Elgin Area School District U-46 schools with funding from a $1 million grant.

       Highland Elementary School in Elgin has a new security camera system that covers the main entrance to the school. Similar security enhancements will be made at the main entrances of several Elgin Area School District U-46 schools with funding from a $1 million grant.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

Several Fox Valley area school districts and colleges will be beefing up security on campuses with federal funding released in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recently awarded $25 million in grants to enhance security at schools and colleges. The money will fund more than 1,300 projects at 448 schools and campuses.

School districts will be using the funds to reinforce doors, install shatter-resistant glass or film, add locks, and other security measures to improve safety for students, employees and visitors.

This is the first year for the Illinois School and Campus Safety Grant Program, started after safety deficiencies were identified at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Among the top funding recipients in Kane and McHenry counties are Elgin Area School District U-46, awarded $1 million, and Huntley School District 158, which will receive approximately $231,000.

U-46 will use the grant money to fortify entrances at its 40 elementary schools and implement a districtwide digital radio system, officials said last week.

"There is nothing more important than having the tools in place to keep our students and staff safe in the case of an emergency situation," U-46 Safety Coordinator John Heiderscheidt said. "The improved technology will allow us to communicate with police in an instant -- a capability that can change everything in a threatening environment."

Heiderscheidt said electronic access control will be installed at two entrances of each elementary school and school employees will receive key fobs. Each elementary school also will receive a new door intercom system and additional exterior cameras allowing the school's main office staff to monitor every door entrance at all times.

Electronic access doors were installed at 14 elementary schools last fall.

"The new electronic access system is safer because no one can come in without us knowing," Highland Elementary School art teacher Michelle Woods said.

The districtwide digital radio system will be stationed at the five high schools and broadcast to all schools. All principals will receive new radios with districtwide broadcast ability. The system also will allow local police departments the ability to communicate with all U-46 schools instantly and send emergency messages directly to all principals, Heiderscheidt said.

At District 158, the grant money will be used for shatter resistant windows in all eight district schools across three campuses in Kane and McHenry counties, install cameras outside main doors, add locks on doors in office areas and secure secondary entrances.

"Almost all of it is going to be spent creating more secure entrances," District 158 Superintendent John Burkey said. The district would not have been able to complete the projects with its own funds, he added.

"The whole point of the security measures are to try to slow down someone who is trying to cause harm," Burkey said.

The work will need to be completed within a year of receipt of funds, he added.

McHenry County school districts, Crystal Lake District 47 and Crystal Lake High School District 155, also will receive grants of $200,724 and $171,250, respectively, for various security improvements.

"It's going to be used for purchasing security cameras to be used around our facilities, mainly external," District 155 spokesman Jeffrey Puma said. "We have four high schools and an alternative campus. It will be across those campuses."

Not all school districts were as lucky with their applications. IEMA received grant applications from 623 school districts and campuses requesting more than $54 million. The agency accepted only one application per school district or college campus, but each application could include multiple projects.

Elgin Community College, which was awarded $186,641 for two projects, will use a portion of the funds to buy additional radios that will improve communications between its campus police department and other area law enforcement agencies and mutual aid partners. "Everyone who we would rely on during a crisis or emergency situation," said Tami Haukedahl, ECC deputy police chief. "The interoperability will help us get our mutual aid partners on campus quicker."

In 2012, ECC was ranked the fifth safest college in Illinois based on campus crime rates. The enhancements "will maintain the great momentum we gathered over the last few years in campus safety and security," Haukedahl said.

"The other project is the purchase and installation of shatter resistant glass or film (in) strategic locations, and those haven't been determined yet," she said. "We have a few buildings, and it will be some interior windows and some exterior windows."

The shatter resistant glass is not only for active shooter situations, but also helpful under severe weather conditions, Haukedahl said.

"It will hopefully reduce injuries and property damage," she added.

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