Four area schools are receiving a combined total of about $231,700 from the state to create a safer school environment for students and staff.
Alexandria Public Schools are receiving $146,324, Brandon-Evansville Public Schools are receiving $16,303 and Osakis Public School is receiving $27,695. Minnewaska School District also received $41,353, but district officials did not respond by press time to a request for comment.
The state set apart $30 million to fund safety initiatives in Minnesota schools. This safe school supplemental aid must be used for expenses allowed by the safe schools levy. The safe schools levy, formerly known as the crime levy, allows school districts to levy for costs associated with student and staff safety issues, according to information from the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The money will be used for police liaison services, counseling, school security, gang resistance education training and other crime prevention and safety measures.
The funds come from a one-time Safe Schools Supplemental Aid appropriation in the state’s new education budget. The $30 million will be provided to school districts and charter schools based on the number of pupils served per district throughout last year.
Trevor Peterson, director of business services in the district, said the school board has not planned for how it is going to spend the safe schools supplemental aid yet. The board briefly discussed it at a committee meeting this week, he said, but has not made any formal action.
“It’s still fresh news to us,” Peterson said, noting the first step is to identify potential needs. “We’re doing a little more research before we commit the expenditures to that funding source.”
The Osakis school building has five entrances, and Superintendent Randy Bergquist said the district is planning on making all five of those more secure.
“People will have to do some sort of buzz-in system and our secretaries will have technology capabilities to see who it is and find out what their purpose is for coming to school,” he said. “We need something here immediately.”
The most important things in a school are the students and staff, he said. The new security features will add more control over the entrances to ensure the safety of the people inside.
He is also looking into adding a school resource officer. This officer addition would not be a part of the safe school supplemental aid, however.
Superintendent Don Peschel said how the district spends its supplemental aid will depend a lot on the outcome of the November referendum. Once the board knows how much money the district will have based on the referendum, decisions will be made on how to spend the supplemental aid.
The Brandon-Evansville School Board has not formally discussed any potential spending, but Peschel said more mental health programming and the installation of outdoor camera systems could be possibilities.
Either way, the money will definitely be spent, Peschel said. “We’re better off doing infrastructure work. We can still do some upgrades if need be.”