Grants will give New Hampshire schools some funding for security upgrades

  • Bow High School students enter on Monday, August 30, 2021 for the first day of school. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 7/5/2022 3:23:30 PM

In Bow and Dunbarton, the school district has been piloting one new security camera this year that administrators believe could improve safety at all their facilities.

The security camera, on loan from a vendor, has given administrators a taste of what is out there for camera technology, and how much of an improvement it is over the “outdated” security cameras currently in place at Bow and Dunbarton elementary schools, and the Bow middle and high schools, according to business administrator Duane Ford. The current cameras, while functional, are hard to access, the footage isn’t exceptionally clear, and they don’t have the ability to connect to a phone or other portable device to be viewed at any time from any location, the way modern cameras can.

“It’s technology that works, but it’s just old,” Ford said Tuesday.

The Bow-Dunbarton district is planning to apply for a school security grant from the state of New Hampshire this summer, which if awarded could give them up to $100,000 per school to fund their project. In  addition to new cameras, the district hopes to instate a swipe card system on all their doors instead of traditional locks, which will tell them who is accessing the building at what time, and allow the instant revocation of a cardholder’s access to the building. 

The New Hampshire Department of Education announced Tuesday that the application window was opened for public and private schools seeking funding for security projects. Public and private schools can submit their projects for consideration until Aug. 26. The state will award grants for projects that fall into three main security categories: surveillance, access control and emergency alerting. Projects that address the most critical security risks will be prioritized.

“School security is at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” said education commissioner Frank Edelblut. “Offering this new pool of funding for the implementation of crucial school security projects underscores the ongoing commitment to help ensure the security of New Hampshire children.”

The $10,260,000 in funding for the school safety grants comes from the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funding. In June, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee approved the Dept. of Education’s request to allocate it to school security.

The grant process comes just over a month after a gunman fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in late May, one of the deadliest in the country’s history. Prompted by school shootings over the last several decades, schools nationwide have increasingly added safety fortifications to their buildings to protect against intruders including locked doors, panic buttons and school resource officers.

Uvalde had many of those measures in place, which proved ineffective to stop the heavily armed gunman.

In Concord, superintendent Kathleen Murphy said the school district has been looking forward to the grants and will apply. While she declined, for security reasons, to go into detail about specific upgrades Concord schools need, she said the district plans to seek funding for projects at one of the elementary schools, at Rundlett Middle School and Concord High, including a better emergency alert system and added cameras.

“We know that we want to improve communication and other pieces of equipment that would help us with safety – additional cameras, that kind of stuff,” Murphy said. “We are on it, we know where we want to go on it.”

While Concord schools have a plan to construct a new Rundlett Middle School building by 2025, Murphy said the district will keep making needed improvements to the current building until then, to make sure it’s still a safe environment for students.

“When we work on a project like cameras, those digital cameras can be moved. They don’t stay with the building. We can take those kinds of things to the new site and use them,” Murphy said.

In Franklin, superintendent Dan LeGallo says his district definitely plans on applying for funds in order to upgrade security cameras in their buildings.  

In Merrimack Valley and Andover school districts, superintendent Mark MacLean said he’s meeting with administrators and facilities management personnel to discuss the district’s needs before applying for the grant. Andover School District has been planning a project to replace the door lock system at Andover Elementary/Middle School, and MacLean believes it falls in line with the state’s application criteria.

The school grant applications will be considered exempt from public disclosure under New Hampshire’s Right to Know law due to the exemption that allows records to remain private if they’re preparing for “emergency functions,” to thwart acts that can result in “widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life.”

Some $3.3 million in funding will be awarded early-decision to public schools that apply by July 22. Then $10 million will be awarded in a second allotment, to both public and private school applicants who apply by Aug. 26. The maximum possible award any school can receive is $100,000. 

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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