Union County school districts receive school safety grant - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Union County school districts receive school safety grant

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UNION COUNTY, Ill. -- Union County school districts have received $357,000 for safety improvements. The districts were awarded the funds from a Department of Justice Program created by legislation, sponsored by Representative Mike Bost. 

Union County Sheriff Scott Harvel played a pivotal role in helping secure the money. Harvel was contacted by Bost's office in July about the grant opportunity and, in just a month, he was able to gather all seven superintendents, write and submit the application. 

"I had the thought in my mind that if we did it as a group opposed to one school district that we would be more likely to be in the running for the award of this grant," Harvel explains. 

Bost then came to Anna Junior High in August to praise Harvel and the superintendents for their quick action on applying for the grant. Now, the districts will receive the funds to make security enhancements to their school buildings. 

Most of the superintendents plan on using part of their share of the funds to upgrade their camera security systems such as the Anna-Jonesboro High School building. 

"The majority of the money, that we wrote for, are for a new camera security system. Ours is very out-dated any many of the cameras aren't functioning properly," says Rob Wright, Anna-Jonesboro High School District 81 Superintendent. 

In addition, several districts want to improve communication within their buildings like Dongola and Anna elementary and middle school.

"We have two campuses; Pre-K through second grade and third grade though eighth grade. A new phone system will basically allow for much faster communication between the buildings," says Chuck Goth, Anna CUSD 37 Superintendent. 

However, some districts have unique needs. This includes Shawnee school district, "We have a cell phone signal issue and so one of the things that we are going to use it for is a cell phone tower booster," explains Shelly Clover-Hill, Superintendent. 

Sheriff Harvel believes it's imperative for rural school districts like those in Union county to focus on improving their security measures since it can take authorities several minutes to arrive on scene in an emergency situation. "It's important to not look at what police can do but what can we do in the schools to protect students," he says. 

Harvel also plans on searching for and applying for grants to hire resource officers.

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