The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Schools seek grants to make buildings safer

State grants can pay for door locks, cameras, alarms, software

Published: April 25, 2023   
Arkansas Catholic file
To prevent unauthorized entry, Catholic High School in Little Rock has installed secure exterior door locks which open only with reprogrammable keycards.

Catholic schools in Arkansas could get  up to $1.4 million in reimbursements to make safety improvements to their buildings and grounds, training and staff.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers school safety grants to implement the School Safety Commission’s recommendations. The deadline for schools to apply was March 31.

For schools to qualify, the schools must conduct a school safety audit by August 2024. They also are recommended to provide current floor plans to first responders, develop a school safety plan and increase the presence of law enforcement or school resource officers on their campus

Superintendent Theresa Hall said all Catholic schools in the state are required to have a safety plan and regularly review it. All schools were encouraged to apply for the safety grants, she said.

Associate superintendent Illeana Dobbins said the schools can seek reimbursements for expenses related to improving safety on their campus, such as new security cameras or locks. Based on student population, the reimbursements to 26 Catholic schools could total $1,404,371.50 this year.

The safety grant has three priority levels. A school must have all of priority one in place before it can seek reimbursement for priority two and three.

Priority one includes electronic access control on exterior doors, a visitor management system, locks on classroom doors, numbers on classroom doors, a two-way intercom and fencing around the school.

Priority two includes security cameras, a grand master key, shatter-resistant film for glass or windows, safety measures on buses, visible signs for visitor sign-ins and modifications to visitor entrances.

The final priorities are physical barriers to the main school entrance, software to monitor threats on school-owned devices, weapon-detection and shot-detection systems, door-prop alarms, first-aid materials and radios compatible with the Arkansas Wireless Information Network.

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