Schools get funds to boost security

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press Bark River-Harris School District Superintendent Jason Lockwood stands next to an upgraded access point and explains the security measures being implemented at the school’s building through the Michigan State Police 2019 Competitive School Safety Grant Program. Bark River-Harris School is upgrading and replacing old exterior doors with two sets of security doors that allow all entry points to be linked up with the school’s keycard system.

GLADSTONE — Michigan State Police awarded money from the 2019 Competitive School Safety Grant Program to a multitude of school districts including some in Delta, Schoolcraft and Menominee counties.

Over 130 public school districts, 66 non-public schools, 20 public charter schools and nine intermediate school districts received $25 million in grants from the program. The money will be used to purchase technology and equipment that will improve safety and security of students, staff and school buildings.

The local school districts that received funding were Gladstone Area Schools, Escanaba Area Public Schools and Tri Township School in Delta County; Carney-Nadeau Public School, Bark River-Harris School District and Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy in Menominee County; and Manistique Area Schools in Schoolcraft County.

Jay Kulbertis, the superintendent of both Gladstone Area Schools and Tri Township School in Rapid River, said most of the local school districts had already implemented technology and equipment they could afford and this grant program allows them to take it a step further.

“Most of us have already done a lot of the stuff that we could afford to do on our own, like creating single points of entry, making sure all of our external doors are locked, and then limiting the number of keys that are available,” he said.

Both Gladstone and Rapid River schools use electronic keycards. Kulbertis said the keycards are safer than regular keys because copies can’t be made, cards are specific to each person, so logs can be recorded on when and who accessed doors, and the keycards can be deactivated if lost or stolen. He explained they’re also working on a way to allow access for all law enforcement officers, as the officers already have keycards to access the Delta County Courthouse.

Gladstone Area Schools and Tri Township School have three projects lined up to take place this summer with the use of the grant money.

Gladstone Area Schools was awarded $109,538 and Tri Township School was awarded $34,100.

Kulbertis explained Bob Berbohm, the Delta and Schoolcraft counties emergency management coordinator, went to the school districts and highlighted some weaknesses in the security measures.

The three projects to strengthen security at the Gladstone and Rapid River schools are the installation of a door prop notification system, video-speaker systems for all access points, and high impact security window film for all windows.

“We can lock every door but we don’t always know that every door is shut tightly,” Kulbertis said. “We have a lot of kids in our buildings, maybe more kids than what most people have in their buildings. And when kids want access they may put a pebble or a pencil or just prop some door open that we don’t necessarily know about. They’re intending to come back later but that leaves that accessible to anyone.”

The door prop notification system will allow the school to keep a better eye on all of the exterior doors of the buildings.

The Gladstone and Rapid River schools already have single points of entry for each building and all have a buzzer systems to gain access into the buildings. However, Kulbertis said the video-speaker system will make identifying individuals asking for entry easier on staff and makes the system safer.

High impact security window films for all windows on buildings in both school districts holds glass in place longer so if an intruder tries to break-in it would take a considerably longer time to get through.

“If there were ever an incident, the point (Berbohm) repeatedly made was every minute that you can keep an intruder outside the building is another minute closer that law enforcement is to arriving,” he said.

The grant money awarded to Bark River-Harris School District is different than the money awarded to the other local school districts. Bark River-Harris was awarded $62,265 from program area two where there was a match requirement. This means the district applied for a grant where they would have to match the grant money by 25 percent.

Jason Lockwood, superintendent of the Bark River-Harris School District, said with the 25 percent match requirement the school district is putting $20,755 of their own funds to make the project an around $82,000 security upgrade.

“The reason why our school district decided to go with the (the match requirement grant) is because we are currently going through a construction project. So we’re adding on four classrooms, a brand new cafeteria, a kitchen area, a bus garage, a parking lot, and we’re doing some updates internally. Some of the updates that we’re planning on doing internally have to do with school security upgrades,” he said.

He explained because they were already planning to accomplish a security upgrade project the grant allowed them to save money since they only had to pay for 25 percent of the total security upgrade and then put the money they saved towards other programs or projects.

“That made the most sense for us considering we are currently in the midst of a school upgrade,” Lockwood said.

The $82,000 security upgrade will go towards upgrading and replacing several of the exterior doors and having all of the new doors up to date with the keycard system.

Lockwood explained the school building has been slowly upgrading and replacing the exterior doors, but the grant allows them to complete the project. He added, with the old doors gone there will no longer be exterior doors with keys and all access points will have cameras and the keycard system installed.

“We have the keycard system right now, but with our older doors we don’t have that system linked with our old doors — they have the old physical keys to get in,” he said.

The hope for the Bark River-Harris School District is to have the security upgrades done this summer and to have the work line up with the other construction projects.

Both Kulbertis and Lockwood voiced gratitude in receiving the grant money for their districts to help accomplish a safer environment for their students and staff.