Apr 24 2024

How to Fund School Safety Upgrades

K–12 administrators and technology leaders can find the funding for physical security solutions through state and federal grants.

Schools are taking initiative to update their physical security systems for the modern era. In some cases, legislation has spurred the changes. For example, several states have adopted Alyssa’s Law, which requires public elementary and secondary schools to have a silent panic alarm that contacts local law enforcement in emergencies. In other instances, schools have decided to upgrade because their surveillance cameras, access control systems and other safety technologies are outdated.

Many school districts rely on analog camera systems that don’t connect to their networks or communicate in real time. In some school buildings, the cameras are more than 15 years old.

New cameras and physical security systems can be controlled remotely, provide real-time data, and can respond to visual events or audio cues. They can detect bullying, self-harm ideation and other dangers and alert K–12 leaders to potential emergency situations.

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However, unfunded physical security mandates and pricey safety technologies have left some school leaders wondering how to fit these solutions into their budgets.

What to Prepare Before Starting a Physical Security Upgrade

Most of the grants for K–12 physical security technologies are competitive grants, especially at the federal level, so schools need a plan in place before they begin the process of applying and upgrading.

This should include working with all the stakeholders in the district — school safety directors, chief operations officers in charge of facilities and maintenance, IT directors and CTOs, and superintendents. It shouldn’t be up to individual building administrators to create physical safety plans for their schools, as this can lead to a mismatched collection of physical security tech across the district.

KEEP READING: Protect K–12 schools with the four pillars of physical safety.

Local law enforcement and first responders should also be involved in a district’s plans so they’re prepared to act in an emergency. Private schools must apply through their law enforcement agencies in cases where grants are available only to public entities.

Another requirement schools should consider before they apply for funding is a physical security audit. Many states require audits before awarding schools funding. In some jurisdictions, the assessments must be conducted by specific agencies — for example, the Texas School Safety Center — but in others, the assessments can be performed by third parties, including law enforcement organizations and technology partners, such as CDW.

Apply for School Physical Safety Grants at the State Level

States increasingly have grants available for physical safety upgrades in K–12 schools. Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas have notably offered funding to support these measures. Utah is one of the latest to do so, with the state government allocating $100 million in one-time funding and $2.1 million in ongoing funding in a bill that passed in March.

$100 million

The amount of one-time funding Utah will offer to K–12 schools for security technology and upgrades

Source: the74million.org, “Parents of Slain Parkland Students Applaud Utah for $100M School Safety Bill,” April 16, 2024

Most states will have some level of funding available for schools, and state agency websites are a great resource for finding lists of available physical security grants.

When applying for state grants, it’s important for schools to look at the requirements. In addition to conducting audits, many states have specific parameters for how schools can use the money for safety technologies.

For example, they may divide the technology into two tiers and require that schools meet all the requirements of the first tier before they can use grant money for technology in the second. This could look like schools having to invest in cameras and access control technologies before spending grant money on other safety tech, such as radios on buses.

These restrictions can help schools standardize on solutions across the district to ensure seamless connections and interoperability, which can lead to lifesaving efficiencies in an emergency.

Capitalize on Recurring and One-Time Federal Funds for School Safety

There are a few notable recurring school safety grants at the federal level, in addition to one-time funding opportunities that schools can take advantage of.

The most general recurring federal fund is the School Violence Prevention Program, which allocates about $70 million per year to K–12 schools for safety upgrades and technology. The application process has two steps, each with its own deadline. For 2024, the first deadline is June 11 and the second is June 17.

The other recurring grants are the STOP School Violence Program, which primarily applies to training staff and students on safety measures, and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which private schools can apply for.

Schools should also be vigilant in taking advantage of one-time funding for physical security. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, the last of which must be allocated by this September, can be used for physical safety upgrades including cameras, sensors and access control systems.

LEARN MORE: Explore six creative avenues for spending ESSER funds before they expire.

The Stronger Connections Grant Program is one-time federal funding that states will distribute to K–12 institutions. This means that some states have already doled out the funding, while other institutions can expect to see this money in their future.

Schools should consider the best ways to use physical security funding for building upgrades, whether they abide by certain tiers that their states have laid out or through the result of a physical security assessment. CDW’s physical security team can help schools figure out where to start in making a long-term plan for upgrading surveillance, access control, mass notification, mental health and other safety technologies in the district.

This article is part of the ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

AndreyPopov/Getty Images

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