Four area school districts will receive state grants for the placement of resource officers and police officers in their schools.
The Blairsville-Saltsburg School District will get $60,000, Marion Center Area School District will receive $37,338, Apollo-Ridge School District is to get $28,765, and the Armstrong School District, $40,000.
The news was announced Thursday in a joint statement from state Sen. Don White and state Reps. Sam Smith, Dave Reed and Jeff Pyle.
A total of $3.9 million has been awarded statewide to 81 schools and municipalities in the current round of grants. Priority was given to schools and municipalities that employ officers who have completed additional training related to interaction with children and adolescents within a school setting.
Eligible schools and municipalities could apply for up to $60,000 for a school resource officer and up to $40,000 for a school police officer. The school districts are required to fund the officer’s position for at least two years. Pending available funding for the 2014-15 school year, districts will be eligible to receive 50 percent of their 2013-14 award without reapplying.
“It is unfortunate that we have to take these measures to keep our classrooms safe,” White said in a statement. “But events have tragically shown that there is no place safe from violence. It is incumbent upon us as a state to take the appropriate and necessary steps to protect students.”
White is the author of two bills currently pending in the Senate that would give school districts new options to improve student safety. Senate Bill 1193 would give school boards the option of allowing licensed and trained staff to carry firearms on school property. Senate Bill 1194 would allow districts in communities that rely on state police coverage to contract with municipal police from nearby jurisdictions to provide school security.
“I was pleased to work with my colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate to move the legislation that significantly expanded the Safe Schools Grant Program, which provides the funding for these grants,” Smith said. “This partnership between the state and our local school districts benefits students and their families, as well as teachers, staff and administrators.”
“These grants support local districts in their efforts to improve safety and provide financial support for resource officers and police officers to provide the greatest level of security possible at our schools,” Reed said. “This is a proactive measure that provides schools with a deterrent to violence and a way to respond should it occur.”
“As a former public educator, I recognize and understand the importance of creating a safe learning environment for students,” Pyle said. “Students’ concerns should be focused primarily on their studies, not upon fears they may have from seeing the scattered and random acts of violence that have taken place in schools across the nation. If these resource and police officers bring peace of mind and, hopefully, aren’t needed for anything more, these grants are an excellent investment in these local schools.”