Southwest Licking Superintendent Robert Jennell said he is fairly confident the district will qualify for at least part of a grant to improve security for district school buildings.
"We're going to write some grants," he said Oct. 17.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission announced Oct. 9 it had begun accepting applications for the School Security Grant Program. The program -- enacted in House Bill 53, which is the recently passed state budget bill -- authorizes the commission to reimburse public school districts for building security expenditures, including:
* Up to $2,000 for one emergency-communications system or multiagency radio communication system (MARCS) unit per eligible school building.
* Up to $5,000 for costs incurred with the purchase of a security-entrance system consisting of a security camera, an intercom and remote-access equipment for one entrance per eligible school building.
A $12 million reappropriation from the commission's current capital allocation funds the program.
Commission Executive Director Richard Hickman said the program provides a method for school districts to address the crucial needs of communicating with first responders in times of emergency and with reducing unsecured access points in schools.
"While no single program can completely address this critical issue, the School Security Grant Program will assist districts across the state in their security efforts," Hickman said. "We welcome the opportunity to work with Ohio schools in this manner."
Jennell said he believes Southwest Licking could secure grant funding toward MARCS units for the individual school buildings; however, the security-entrance funding is allocated more on a needs basis, and other Ohio school districts are likely more in need of security-entrance enhancements than Southwest Licking, he said.
Also, should the district's 6-mill bond issue for a large-scale district renovation and building project be approved Nov. 5, the district's security needs would change.
"If the schools have MARCS radios and the police and fire departments do, too, everybody can talk to one another," said board member Don Huber. "That's not the case now. This is really an exciting development."
Huber said one district school building is in the city of Pataskala, while the rest of the schools contact the Licking County Sheriff's Office for police protection.
"There's definitely a need for the sheriff to communicate with the Pataskala police and the schools," Huber said.
Jennell said the Ohio School Facilities Commission is accepting applications until the beginning of next school year, so it may not be until then when Southwest Licking officials learn if the district qualified for any funding. He said he hopes the district may learn before then, however.