The Whitley County school district will be spending over $450,000 over the next two years improving security throughout the district thanks in large part to a federal grant that it received recently.
Among the list of items being done is installation of 3M shatter resisting film over some school doors and windows, and new, improved and additional handheld radios for each school to improve communications in the event of an emergency, Superintendent John Siler told the Whitley County Board of Education during a special meeting Thursday.
He added that the 3M film isn’t bulletproof, but it does keep glass windows and doors from shattering instantly if they are shot, which could provide valuable time in the event of an active shooter situation.
“Everything is safety. What can we do to keep our kids safer? We were tickled to death and partnered up with the Whitley County Fiscal Court. We had to have a partner like that to write the grant with us,” Siler said.
“They worked just hand in hand with us. It is going to be a big help. It is going to allow us to do a lot of things that we couldn’t do without this grant. We just couldn’t pull this much money out of the general fund.”
The 2018 COPS Office Stop School Violence Prevention Program grant will provide the district with $339,004 in federal funds over a two-year period, and it will require a local cash match of $113,001 for a total of $452,005 in funding.
Siler said that the district started writing the grant last spring.
“We started looking at schools and some of the security needs that we thought we had. We wrote the grant according to that. This is kind of a line item grant. We basically got almost every item we asked for approved,” he said.
The grant will also be used upgrade buses so cameras will be placed inside.
In addition, the grant will be used to upgrade and increase the number of security cameras at each school.
In other business during Thursday’s meeting, the board:
• Recognized the Whitley County Girl’s Seventh Grade Basketball Team, which recently won Kentucky Basketball Commission Middle School State Championship in Lexington.
“They are back-to-back state champions. Any time in sports to win one state championship is difficult. To do it in back-to-back years is really special,” Siler noted. “This is a phenomenal group of young ladies.”
The team finished the year with a record of 29-1 overall record.
• Approved the $297,000 two-year preschool partnership grant for 2019 and 2020, which will allow preschool programs to expand from 19 classrooms to 20 classrooms with the additional classroom located at Oak Grove Elementary School.
The grant also supports enhancing the implementation of all-day preschool services for at-risk preschool students. Eligibility is based on a parental need. “It is a great program,” added Board Chairman Larry Lambdin.
• Accepted the Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) $32,837 offer of assistance, which goes towards technology funding. The funding is based upon the average daily attendance rate, and requires an equal match by the school district.
“It goes a long way for what we do with it in the district providing Chrome Books, and providing networking behind the scenes,” said Chief Information Officer Kevin Anderson. “We’ll definitely put it to good use.”
• Approved the $105,000 fresh fruit and vegetable program grant, which allows elementary school students to get a snack after lunch and before they get on the bus. Schools receiving the grant money include: Whitley North, Whitley East, Pleasant View and Boston elementary schools, Whitley Central Primary and Whitley Central Intermediate schools. “It is always some kind of fruit or vegetable,” Siler noted.
• Approved the reconvening of the Whitley County Local Planning Committee in order to develop a new district facility plan, which is essentially a wish-list of building projects for the district.
“This can be anything from blacktop to roofs. It can include geothermal systems, windows, anything. I’d like to ask each of our principals to take a hard look at their buildings and some of their needs. We want to make sure we get everything covered on this district facility plan,” Siler said.
“That by no means means that KDE (Kentucky Department of Education) is going to fund this or we will get to do this, but if you don’t have the need there and have it on paper, then you will never get it … Down the line we are positioning ourselves to do some of these projects.”
Put another way, “If you don’t ask, you won’t receive,” Lambdin added.
The board also voted to retain RossTarrant Architects to help develop the plan. Architect Laith Ross told the board that it has been five or six years since the last district facilities plan was done, and he hopes to have it submitted to the state in April.
The planning committee is composed of Siler; board member Malorie Cooper; District Facilities Supervisor Joe Jones; community members Ronnie Moses, Eskridge Shelton and Shannon Perkins; local school zoning official Herschel Roberts; teachers Sherry Lawson, Anthony Osborne, Bryan Stewart and Amanda Creekmore; parents Travis Roaden, Tim Smith, Roger Prewitt and Stacey Mahan; central office representative Paula Rickett; and principals Stuart Conlin, Larry Brown, Bobby Gibbs and Gina Wilson.
• Approved the purchase of a $106,338 Type A Handicapped Equipped Bus. This will increase the number of such buses to five for the district. Only four buses are currently needed for daily routes and the oldest bus will be designated as a substitute bus.