AVON — Flanked by fourth-grade members of the Ambassadors Club and student council at Cedar Elementary School here, Gov. Mike Pence announced more than $9 million in grants for schools statewide to enhance their security.
“Far too often we wake up to headlines that break our hearts,” Pence said before mentioning the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Conn., that happened shortly after he was elected governor last year. Pence called it an unimaginable horror that prompted him to make school safety a focus of his administration.
“When parents drop their kids off (at school), they have every expectation and right to expect to be welcomed by their embrace at the end of the day,” he said.
The program provides matching grants to school corporations, charter schools, or other school coalitions. They’re earmarked for safety equipment, threat assessments, and employing school resource officers.
There are 241 schools receiving the grants this year. Of those, 123 requested resource officers, 221 safety equipment, and 36 threat assessments.
“We’ve made an important step toward protecting our students, protecting our teachers, our staff, and the visitors to our schools,” Pence said. “Here in Indiana we put our kids’ safety first.”
Some of the safety equipment being installed in state schools include security cameras, door-locking devices, and visitor sign-in kiosks. The last one is already in use at Cedar Elementary.
Pence urged any schools that haven’t applied for a Secured School Safety Grant to do so in the next year.
“We’re anxious to partner with every school in the state,” the governor said. “The value of this grant cannot be overlooked or underestimated. It’s an opportunity to strengthen our schools against potential, unknowable, and unthinkable threats.”
Cedar Elementary was chosen as the venue for the announcement because the Avon Community School Corporation was awarded the maximum grant amount — $50,000 annually. School corporations with average daily memberships of at least 1,000 are eligible to receive that amount, while those with less than a thousand can receive up to $35,000 per year.
“Congratulations on being a model, along with hundreds of other schools across Indiana,” Pence said, noting that six of Avon’s schools have door-locking devices, with 10 more slated to get the technology soon.
Anne Englehart, president of the Avon School Board, praised the committee that wrote their corporation’s grant proposal.
“A child feeling safe is a major factor at school,” she said. “It’s great for our staff as well because they need to be able to do their jobs and not worry about intruders. It’s sad we have to do this, but it’s the reality and we have to stay ahead of the curve.”
The idea of providing extra funding for school security began with a bill introduced in the last General Assembly by State Sen. Pete Miller, whose district includes Avon. He’s pleased with how the Secured School Safety Grant Program is evenly spread statewide.
“I tried to stop, take it all in, and look at those kids’ faces,” Miller said of the students who stood with the governor. “That’s what this is all about. It’s very gratifying.”
The Brownsburg Community School Corporation also received $50,000 in grants, while North West Hendricks was awarded $41,000, Danville $35,250, and Mill Creek $32,500.