Grant Helps Local Schools Make Security Upgrades

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

SALINE COUNTY -- We hear about violence at schools all too often these days, so security is a big focus. However, school districts in cash-strapped Illinois can have a hard time keeping safety features up-to-date. That's one reason why a security grant program may have seen a big response. 

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency received applications from about two-thirds of the schools and colleges in the state. It's money that could be crucial to districts who don't have extra funding but are still waiting to do basic security projects.
 
The front doors of Eldorado High School won't be as open next year. A few more cameras will also be watching the hallways. Both are security features that the district has been wanting to upgrade for awhile.
 
"In today's society, i mean it just seems like a week doesn't go by where we don't have something happen on the news," said Superintendent Ryan Hobbs. 
     
The school board set aside county sales tax money in March to install a buzzer system and electronic key system at all three Eldorado campuses. Hobbs also applied for a state grant to pay for some of the cost. 
 
The district learned late last week they were approved. The extra money allows them to replace their old security cameras for a system that can be monitored from mobile devices. 
 
"We can pull them up on an iphone, ipad, or computer and see exactly what's going on here in the building no matter where we're at," said Hobbs. 
 
Eldorado got $31,000 out of the $45,000 that they asked for. Entryway projects like theirs were some of the state's top priority. The goal is to slow down anyone trying to break in and harm students and faculty.
 
"Experts told us that that's really one of the best ways you can spend this type of security money," said IEMA Communications Manager Patti Thompson.   
 
IEMA had $25 million to give away. Schools applied for more than double that or about $54 million.
 
"Doors, shatterproof windows, or film to make those windows shatter resistant," said Thompson. 
     
IEMA narrowed down those projects from more than 2,200 to around 1,300. The big request for safety help doesn't come as a surprise to the agency or to district leaders in Eldorado.
 
"I just think it's probably a concern for every building administrator and every school board across the state," said Hobbs. 
 
Local colleges were also eligible to receive funds. SIU was awarded more than $316,000.
 
You can find the full list of grants here. 
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