Funding to help support school safety

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

More than $14 million in matching grants to enhance security in schools across the state were announced Monday, and all area schools got a piece of the pie.

Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools received $41,247.50; Southwest Dubois Schools received $50,000; Southeast Dubois Schools netted $27,021; Northeast Dubois Schools got $35,000; and North Spencer Schools received $50,000.

The money comes from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security by way of the Indiana Secured School Safety Grant Program. According to a IDHS press release, the money can be used to add school resource officers and equipment as well as conduct threat assessments.

Locally, the money will cover a variety of expenses.

Northeast Dubois County School Corporation plans to use its grant to contract a school resource officer who will be a full-time Dubois County Sheriff’s Department deputy who splits time between Northeast Dubois High School, Dubois Middle School, Dubois Elementary School and Celestine Elementary School.

“It means a lot for our safety, having the opportunity to get a resource officer,” Northeast Dubois Superintendent Bill Hochgesang said of how the grant will impact his schools. “It’s a shame that has to be a need. But it’s definitely a need in our area with the response time that it is.”

He said he is hopeful the officer will begin working at the schools by January, but said if they can get him in before that, they will.

Southwest Dubois Superintendent Tim LaGrange was out of the office this morning, but said at the district school board’s June meeting that money would contribute to the cost of fielding a full-time school resource officer who will split time between his corporation’s schools. Huntingburg Police Department Officer Andy Hammack, who has been with the department since 2012, was recently named to take the role, and he will go through training for the position the week of July 16.

The Southeast Dubois County School Corporation will use its funds to pay for equipment used to secure the school buildings or to enhance medical and police response to them. Superintendent Rick Allen said the exact equipment purchased is kept private and not released to the public. The money will not contribute to bringing a school resource officer to the corporation and Allen has said previously that the district has no plans of bringing one to the district.

Greater Jasper Superintendent Tracy Lorey and Assistant Superintendent Todd Hitchcock were at a workshop at press time and could not be immediately contacted about their district’s plans for the money. At the school board’s last meeting, Lorey outlined upcoming changes to building security in the district, including securing entrances at Jasper High School, Jasper Middle School and Ireland Elementary; implementing a smartphone application called SchoolGuard that will act as a panic device for staff members in the event of an armed intruder; and aligning each school’s safety plans.

The potential of bringing a second school resource officer to the district was also discussed — Jasper Police Department Officer Jason Knies is currently responsible for all students in the corporation — but Lorey said that would be dependent on an agreement with the City of Jasper, and that even if an agreement was reached, the new position would likely not be established until January.

The state also announced Monday a handheld metal detector program that will make one handheld metal detector device available for every 250 students in traditional public, charter and accredited non-public schools by request. Hochgesang and Allen both showed interest in the program.

“Free is free,” Hochgesang said. “It’s another system that could possibly support what we’re trying to do. Absolutely we’ll apply for that.”




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