Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday that the first $5 million in state funding is headed to 169 schools and 36 school districts seeking to improve their school security systems following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting more than nine months ago.
The bond funds the state will use to reimburse local districts for their efforts to harden their existing infrastructure are expected to increase to a total of $15 million by the end of the calendar year. Malloy said he has directed his staff to find another $6 million in bonds funds so that all 604 schools requesting help will get some help from the state Bond Commission.
The $5 million competitive grant was given to 169 of the neediest schools based on both the resources of the district and the level of need. The money will help local schools install surveillance cameras and bullet-proof glass. It also will help schools replace outdated buzzer and school entry systems. The grants ranged from $3,000 for one school in Southington to $65,955 for five schools in New Haven to $1.035 million for 23 schools in Bridgeport.
But Malloy said Wednesday in a press conference outside his Capitol office that it is his intention to fund all of the 604 schools that applied for funding in the first round.
The schools won’t be allowed to use the money to pay for armed guards in schools.
“That is a local decision to be made on a local basis, just as it has always been,” Malloy said of the controversial decisions made by a handful of communities to employ armed guards.
Malloy said he also will ask the General Assembly during the 2014 legislative session to find more money for school security. He said he doesn’t know yet exactly how much he will request.
“I expect that the legislature will agree that we should appropriate additional funds when they come back into session in February,” Malloy said.
The initial funding was made possible by the gun control legislation passed in April. The legislation was the General Assembly’s response to the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting of 20 first graders and six educators.
What the state is saying by giving out these grants is that when it comes to “hardening schools, particularly those older schools, that we are going to play an active role,” Malloy said.
A lawyer for the administration declined to provide a list of schools that will receive the funding, citing an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. The lawyer, Brenda Bergeron, argued that disclosure of the schools may put students in danger because receiving the grant means the school is unsafe and in need of greater security.
The Malloy administration opted to disclose a list of the 36 school districts receiving the funding, along with how much each will receive, and how much the local government is contributing toward the project.
Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, watched the governor’s press conference Wednesday and said schools have to balance the hardening efforts related to security with making sure they’re also providing a welcome environment.
“They’re not going to build moats around the place and make people go through that,” he said. “But at the same time while you have windows you can have the glass in the windows be more secure. While you have doors you can make sure that they lock from the inside so people can’t get in and if someone does get in you can have a system for alerting the appropriate people.”
Bob Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said his organization doesn’t track how many schools are using armed guards or how many schools have school resource officers. But even without an armed guard or police officer in the school, he’s confident that police are now more aware and sensitive to school security needs following Sandy Hook.
Cirasuolo said the police drive by the schools during dismissal and arrival times, but there also are many schools employing greeters who ask you to identify yourself when you enter the school.
Related: Educators Rule Out Arming Guards