Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Area school districts to divide $1.5M in grants

By Leslie Gartrell
School districts in Mercer and Auglaize counties are set to receive a combined $1.56 million in funding through Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's K-12 School Safety Grant Program.
Six school districts in Mercer County will receive a total of $875,000 in funding, while three school districts and the educational service center in Auglaize County will receive a total of $694,200.
In Mercer County, Celina City Schools will receive $100,000 each for the elementary, intermediate, middle and primary schools for a total of $400,000. Celina High School and Mercer County Head Start previously each received $100,000 in safety grants in November.
Superintendent Ken Schmiesing said the funds will likely be spent on safety technology that can be reused when the district's new school buildings are completed.
"We're hoping with the new facilities we can fund technology devices for our existing buildings and they will be transferred to the new buildings," he said.
The planned pre-K-sixth grade facility is expected to be ready for the 2024-2025 school year, while the 7-12 school building is expected to open the summer of 2026, district officials have said.
District facilities director Phil Metz said the district is considering adding and upgrading cameras at the schools, potentially with audio capabilities. The current cameras are visual-only, he said.
Officials are also looking at visitor management, such as additional signage, secure vestibules for entering the buildings and a visitor badging system, Metz said.
In addition, the facilities director said officials are exploring an upgraded phone and announcement system, additional lighting and a distributed antenna system.
Metz said a distributed antenna system would improve communication for law enforcement or fire department personnel outside the building.
At Parkway Local Schools, superintendent Jeanne Osterfeld said the $50,000 safety grant will pay for upgraded cameras throughout the school building, new phones and a new announcement system.
The new PA system will allow staff to perform "all-calls" in which announcements can be made from a phone and heard inside and outside the building.
Other recipients in Mercer County include Coldwater High School, $50,000; Marion Local, $100,000 each to the elementary school and high school for a total of $200,000 total; Immaculate Conception, $50,000; St. Henry Elementary School, $50,000, and St. Henry High School, $75,000, for a total of $125,000.
In Auglaize County, Auglaize County Educational Academy received $94,200; Auglaize County Educational Service Center, $100,000; Wapakoneta City Schools, $100,000 each to Cridersville Elementary School, Wapakoneta Elementary School, Wapakoneta Middle School and Wapakoneta High School for a total of $400,000; and Waynesfield-Goshen Local Schools, $50,000 each to the elementary school and high school for a total of $100,000.
A total of $112 million was allocated for the fourth and fifth rounds of the grant program by the Ohio General Assembly as part of House Bill 45, which was signed by DeWine last month, according to a news release.
The investment more than doubles the initial allotment of $105 million for the program provided by Ohio's operating budget and the American Rescue Plan Act.
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"When we created the K-12 School Safety Grant Program, we expected that the need for funding would far exceed the amount of money available, but I vowed to go back to the legislature and ask for more," DeWine said in the release. "Now, with the generous support of the Ohio General Assembly, I'm proud to announce that every single qualifying school that applied for a grant will receive funding."
So far, a total of $173 million has been awarded to 2,374 Ohio K-12 schools to help pay for physical security expenses such as new security cameras, public address systems, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems, and exterior lighting. Eligible schools could receive as much as $100,000 per building.
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission is administering the program in partnership with the Ohio School Safety Center.
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