Fox Valley area schools get state funding to improve security
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.
Districts receiving security grantsSchool districts and colleges in Kane and McHenry counties collectively received nearly $3.2 million in federal grant funding to improve campus security. The program was started in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Kane CountyEast Aurora Unit District 131 -- $361,145
West Aurora Unit District 129 -- $300,358
Central Unit District 301 -- $82,427
Elgin Community College -- $186,641
Geneva Unit District 304 -- $147,650
Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative -- $4,462
Elgin Area School District U-46 -- $1 million
McHenry CountyAlden-Hebron District 19 -- $10,975
Crystal Lake High School District 155 -- $171,250
Huntley School District 158 -- $231,025
Crystal Lake District 47 -- $200,724
Johnsburg Unit District 12 -- $55,950
Marengo-Union District 165 -- $27,800
McHenry High School District 156 -- $60,200
McHenry County College -- $107,781
Nippersink District 2 -- $33,024
Prairie Grove District 46 -- $22,100
Richmond-Burton High School District 157 -- $14,263
Riley District 18 -- $400
Special Education District of McHenry County-SEDOM -- $5,000
Woodstock School District 200 -- $163,500
SOURCE: Illinois Emergency Management Agency