Students enter St. Germaine Catholic School, which received a Michigan State Police 2019 Competitive School Safety Grant.

Students enter St. Germaine Catholic School, which received a Michigan State Police 2019 Competitive School Safety Grant.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Grants to make local schools safer

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 5, 2019

 Part of the money from the grant will be used for safety bollards, which will separate the sidewalk from the parking lot at the school.

Part of the money from the grant will be used for safety bollards, which will separate the sidewalk from the parking lot at the school.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The incidents make headlines that no parent ever wants to read.

Active shooters and school violence have changed the way schools operate, but all of those precautions cost precious money and resources that schools and districts may not have. A grant from the Michigan State Police, however, is helping provide the resources local schools need to keep students safe.

The Michigan State Police awarded $25 million in grants in March to 135 public school districts, 66 nonpublic schools, 20 public charter schools, and nine intermediate school districts and regional educational service agencies through the 2019 Competitive School Safety Grant Program.

In St. Clair Shores, South Lake Schools received $193,530, Lakeview Public Schools received $123,520, St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School received $5,852 and St. Germaine Catholic School received $44,483.

Jason Guthaus, department analyst for the Michigan State Police Grants and Community Services division, said that schools and school districts could apply for the grants in 11 specific project categories, including hardening entry and access points to the building, adding panic alarms to communicate with law enforcement, and installing public address systems to communicate with students and staff in the building.

“They’re meant to add safety equipment, technology and different measures to improve the safety and security of school buildings,” Guthaus said. “As they do the projects, they’ll submit for reimbursement.”

The department received 366 applications requesting more than $46 million in security enhancements.

“That’s the kind of money that we do not have in our budget, and these are the kinds of things that we need to do,” said Julie DeGrez, principal of St. Germaine Catholic School.

She appreciated the fact that nonpublic schools were allowed to apply for the grant as well, because many grant opportunities are only open to public schools.

At St. Germaine, the money will pay to replace four sets of outside doors, upgrades to classroom door handle locks and for safety bollards to separate the parking lot from the school building.

“All of our doors are locked all the time, but if they don’t fall shut properly and don’t lock, then it defeats the purpose,” DeGrez said. “We’ve been fixing it the best we can to keep it safe.”

The classroom doors are also original to the 1964 school, and while they are dependable and sturdy, the locking mechanism requires teachers to take a key and go into the hallway to lock the door, which can then be pulled shut from inside the classroom. The new locks will allow teachers to secure the doors with a deadbolt by pushing a button from inside the classroom.

“If there was a real emergency where someone was in my building ... that stuff takes time,” DeGrez said. “Now, all they’re going to have to do is close the door and push a button, and then we’ll go into lockdown mode.”

The six cement safety bollards will protect a large, windowed entrance to the school that is on the same level as the parking lot so that vehicles cannot pull right into the school through the glass.

St. Germaine will have the work completed over the summer. The grant requires that schools and districts have all work done by June 1, 2020.

Schools could choose to apply for grants that required a match or apply for grants that did not require a match, but those that did not require matching funds were limited to $50,000 per building, with a maximum award of $250,000 per district.

Guthaus said that schools had to have an updated emergency operations plan in place in order to apply for the grant.

“This ensures that each school building has some type of plan for incidents that take place that would affect them,” he said.

Lakeview Public Schools will use the money for a districtwide radio system to improve security and communications in an emergency. Superintendent Karl Paulson said that the district has a safe/secure schools task force chaired by Sean Zaborowski, director of operations and athletics, that considers improvement ideas for schools and the district.

The districtwide radio system will include a base radio located at the high school or the Wheat Educational Campus, both of which are centrally located in the district. It will also include compatible handheld, rechargeable radios to be carried by administrative staff, teachers and security in each building, allowing anyone with a radio to communicate with anyone else in the district, even in the event of a power outage.

Paulson explained that the radios work instantaneously, unlike cellphones, and will connect throughout the district, unlike the current recreational radios that Lakeview staff currently use.

“Even with power functioning, cellphones take a minute to dial and connect, so the radio system can save seconds that matter in emergency situations,” Paulson said in an email interview.

He said they will also seek to purchase a system that is compatible with police and fire systems.

“I am pleased that our safe/secure task force process generated the idea, the central staff processed the grant ... and Lakeview was awarded,” he said, highlighting the efforts of Zaborowski in putting the grant together. “We should be bidding the radio system improvement this summer, with training and full implementation in the coming school year.”

The grant applications were reviewed by representatives from the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools and other school safety professionals. A complete list of recipients is available at michigan.gov/cjgrants.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that school safety should always be a priority.

“Every parent should have the peace of mind that their children are receiving an education that allows them to achieve their dreams under the safest possible conditions,” she said, according to a press release from the Michigan State Police.

Safety is also a priority for DeGrez. St. Germaine has already had its security cameras hooked up so that St. Clair Shores Police and the Macomb County Communications and Technology Center, or COMTEC, can remotely access them in an emergency. Police also have key fobs to be able to quickly have access to the school.

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