Door ‘boots,’ 911 apps among uses for school security grants

By COLLIN KRIZMANICH
Capital News Service

LANSING — With $4 million to spend in grants from the Michigan State Police, school districts across the state are opting to buy a wide variety of improved school security systems and devices.

These improvements include increased door and window security, new emergency alert applications on electronic devices and reinforced classroom doors to keep out intruders.

“Each district will take a different approach. Some will use electronics, some will use the boot, some will use video cameras — they’re not mutually exclusive,” said Mike Borkovich, Leelanau County Sheriff. “All of these things add up to more security for kids.”

School districts, private schools, charter schools and sheriff’s offices across the state requested more than $46 million in funding. These requests were reviewed by education and law enforcement officials, as well as the governor’s office, to determine how the available $4 million should be distributed.

Priority was given to requests that attempted to secure access points, such as entry doors at school facilities, as “this is one of the best and most cost effective ways to improve school safety,” according to a press release from the Michigan State Police.

While schools across the state already have security systems in place, not all of them are up to date with latest technology.

“Most schools have been around for a while,” said Nancy Becker Bennett, grants and community services division director with the Michigan State Police. “A lot of this (technology) wasn’t thought of when they were built.”

Across the state, school districts have used the grant money in a variety of ways to increase school security.

Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which includes 10 individual school districts, received the largest grant, more than half a million dollars of the $2
million it requested.

This money will be used to update access control systems, as well as window security films, which protect windows from breakage, according to Sarena Shivers, assistant superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

“Ultimately you want to keep an intruder out of the building,” Shivers said. “Our goal was to create as many barriers as we possibly could from the classroom to the outside of the building.”

In some areas, county sheriff’s offices applied for grant funding on behalf of schools, as 20 percent of the money was designated to sheriff’s offices.

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office received the $117,600 it requested.

Unlike Washtenaw, most schools in Eaton County already have updated access-control systems, or are already working on these projects using pre-existing funding, said Capt. Jeff Campbell, of the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office.

The new funding will go toward purchasing the Rave Alert System. This is an application that can be installed on computer devices in the classroom or on cell phones, and includes a panic button that automatically dials 911 in emergencies.

The application alerts police and other predetermined officials of an emergency.

“If you have an emergency in the school and the teacher dials 911 with that panic button, the principal will automatically be notified that the teacher has called 911,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the funding will allow Eaton County schools to purchase the Rave Alert System services for five years beginning with the 2015-16 school year.

In Leelanau County, the Sheriff’s Office received $128,750 to install what is called “The Boot” security device on every classroom door in the district.

This device is a five-pound metal plate that can be dropped down into a bracket on the door by either a student or teacher to block intruders.

“It takes approximately five seconds,” Borkovich said. “This product makes the solid core school doors almost impenetrable.”

While Borkovich chose to use this funding to install “The Boot” in classrooms, he believes each of these unique approaches can be a good idea.

“I’m supportive of any attempt to provide more security for kids,” Borkovich said.

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