In a recent webinar, experts discussed the Georgia School Safety Grant, shedding light on its inception, significance, and effective utilization for the safety and security of students across the state. In this blog article, we’ll discuss the purpose and genesis of the grant, grant eligibility, and tips for leveraging this grant.
The Genesis of the Georgia School Safety Grant:
Representative Matt Dubnik opened the discussion by tracing back the origins of the Georgia School Safety Grant to 2019. Recognizing the paramount importance of ensuring the safety and security of students, staff, and everyone associated with educational institutions, the Georgia House took a decisive step in allocating substantial funds for school safety.
Initially set at $30,000 per school, the grant aimed to address the unique security needs of over 2200 schools and school systems statewide, amounting to a staggering $70 million.
As the commitment to safety deepened, the grant saw an increase to $50,000 per school in 2023, with an additional $120 million injected into the program. Representative Dubnik emphasized the state’s dedication to flexibility by allowing local control over fund allocation, giving school districts autonomy to address specific security concerns based on their unique circumstances.
Purpose of the Grant
The School Safety Grant Program is designed to provide schools with the financial assistance they need to implement a variety of safety and security measures. These measures may include:
- Upgrading security systems
- Installing access control systems
- Implementing visitor management systems
- Purchasing safety equipment and tools
- Providing training for staff and students
Eligibility for the Grant
All public schools in Georgia are eligible for the School Safety Grant Program. This includes traditional public schools, charter schools, and residential treatment facilities.
How to Use the Grant Funds
School districts have a great deal of flexibility in how they use their School Safety Grant funds. However, there are a few guidelines that must be followed. For example, funds cannot be used to pay for salaries or to purchase equipment that was purchased prior to March 10, 2023.
In the webinar, Paul emphasized reaching out to the Georgia Department of Education prior to purchasing to ensure that it would be covered by this grant.
Tips and Tricks for Maximizing the Grant:
The following are some tips for making the most of the Georgia School Safety Grant.
Involve stakeholders in the planning process
Assemble a robust safety team within each school. Involve teachers, administrators, PTOs/PTAs, and age-appropriate students in the decision-making process. Creating a stakeholder committee that includes external partners such as emergency services, fire departments, police departments, mental health providers, and subject matter experts adds diverse perspectives and strengthens the overall safety strategy.
Monthly meetings of the safety team were recommended to maintain an ongoing dialogue and foster collaboration. Having a formalized agenda, creating a roster, and engaging external partners were highlighted as essential components of effective safety team meetings.
Develop a comprehensive safety plan
Clearly define the goals and objectives of your safety plan and outline the specific steps you will take to achieve them. Once you’ve developed your plan, make sure to review with your key stakeholders to check for gaps or areas that need more clarification.
Seek guidance from the Georgia Department of Education
Paul underscored the importance of utilizing resources provided by the Georgia DOE, Georgia Emergency Management, and Homeland Security Agency. These resources include templates, guides, and training materials that aid schools in developing comprehensive safety plans.
When it comes to implementing safety tools, Paul highlighted the significance of being proactive. Schools are encouraged to make a list of their safety needs, seek guidance from the Georgia DOE before making purchases, and check the eligibility of items for reimbursement. Conducting internal safety assessments and identifying gaps in security can guide schools in making informed decisions about where to allocate funds.
Examples of how schools are using the grant
School districts across Georgia are using their School Safety Grant funds in a variety of ways. Some examples include:
- Installing new security cameras and access control systems
- Purchasing stop the bleed kits and other safety equipment
- Providing training for staff on emergency preparedness procedures
- Developing new safety protocols for school buses and after-school activities
Some other ways to consider
- Make daily dismissal safer with a tool that helps ensure students are going home with the right person or mode of transportation.
- Mitigate problematic hallway behavior using a digital hall pass tool
- Leverage a digital emergency reunification system designed with safety best practices
- Provide a silent communication tool for staff to both report emergencies and communicate with each other during an incident.
The School Safety Grant Program is a valuable resource for Georgia schools. By providing schools with the financial assistance they need to implement effective safety and security measures, the program is helping to make our schools safer and our students more secure.
- Georgia Department of Education School Safety Grant Program: https://www.gadoe.org/wholechild/Pages/School-Safety.aspx
- Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency: https://gema.georgia.gov/