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Woodland, Miltona vie for school safety grants

Woodland Elementary School.1 / 2
Miltona Science Magnet School.2 / 2

Two schools in the Alexandria School District are among those throughout the state competing for school safety grants to be awarded this fall by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Grant applications are being submitted on behalf of Woodland and Miltona elementary schools, Superintendent Julie Critz said.

The grant money is coming from a pot of $25 million that was earmarked for school safety funding as part of the Minnesota Legislature's bonding bill in May. All schools, including charter schools, are eligible, and it is expected that there will be plenty of competition for the funding.

Another school in Douglas County is also applying for the safety grants. Brandon-Evansville School District is seeking a grant for security cameras and a monitoring system for all entrances at its schools in Brandon and in Evansville.

Critz explained that a separate application must be done for each school. They considered making requests on behalf of other schools, but settled on the two elementaries.

The improvements to Woodland's Early Education Center would be for a secure entrance. At Miltona, it would involve a new secure entrance, and a way to ensure the safety of students when they move from the school to the portable classroom that is used there.

Critz explained that the district makes security and safety improvements annually, and has used funds from its capital projects account to create secure entrances.

"The Early Education Center doesn't have that yet," she said.

The budget for capital projects has already been set for this school year, Critz said.

The Minnesota Department of Education will start accepting applications from schools on Aug. 29. Since the grants are to be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, schools are lining up to make certain their applications are ready to go the first day.

The state is capping grants at $500,000 for each school building, and is stipulating that at least half the grants are awarded to school districts outside the 11-county metropolitan area.

Another criteria for the grants is that high-priority projects will be considered first. According to the Department of Education, those projects are defined as communication systems or exterior entry security, such as electronic locking capability or improved integrity of doors and glass, keyless door entry systems, door alarm systems, changes to main entrances that funnel building access into main offices, and visual notification systems to warn people not to enter a building.

Lower-priority projects include camera/surveillance systems, internal building lockdown equipment or door hardware upgrades, vehicle barriers and specific burglar alarm systems.

The schools will be notified Sept. 28 as to whether their grant applications were successful.