Some Hoosiers worry additional $5 million for school safety isn’t enough

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After shootings inside two Indiana schools, teachers and administrators are planning and preparing, hoping to prevent similar events from happening again.

“It’s sad but its important work," said 3rd grade teacher and interim principal with Warsaw Community Schools Justin Schafer. "A safe school is a learning school, and we’re in the business of keeping kids safe.”

Schafer and nearly 1,000 other Indiana school safety specialists are in Indianapolis for a two-day advanced training academy. School leaders will hear from speakers on various safety topics such as active shooters, bus routes, mental health of students and social media threats.

"The way things are changing, the way kids are... society’s changing," said Jeff Harrell, Athletic Director and teacher at Silver Creek High School. "I just felt that there was a greater need to be involved and to know and be aware."

Just this year, the state legislature added $5 million to the Secured School Safety Grant, bringing the total budget for the grant program from $14 million to $19 million.

“Those grants are really important to us," said Mary Lang, Chief Communications Officer with Wayne Township Schools. "Many school districts are struggling with reduced state funding, so we look for additional grant monies wherever we can.”

The legislator also expanded how that grant can be used and who can apply. In the case of Wayne Township, Lang says they can now apply for double the amount of grant money, as long as they can match it.

“We're very excited about that," Lang said. "We have needs just like every school system, and we can put that money to use.”

However, along with the bigger pool of money comes a bigger pool of applicants, something that worries state superintendent Jennifer McCormick

"I think it will be a problem because although we have a little bit more funds, and again we appreciate any new funds... you have a pool of applicants that just got larger," McCormick said. "So we’re concerned with that.”

Schools can use the grants for things like better building security and hiring school resource officers. While McCormick says she’s happy to see an increase in funds, she’s hoping to see more in the future.

“It doesn't matter if you're running a hospital, if you're running a statehouse or a schoolhouse… safety is expensive," McCormick said. "So for us to pretend like it’s not, or for us to rationalize minimal dollars… doesn’t make much sense for a state.”

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