WHEATFIELD — Two separate safety grants have been awarded to the Kankakee Valley School Corp. and the Wheatfield Vol. Fire Department. The school safety grant comes from Homeland Security, which administers the grants. Wheatfield Fire received a safety grant from NiSource-NIPSCO to be used for education.
The school corporation has been awarded the Secured School Safety Grant for several years, using most of the funding to help pay for school resource officers. The corporation began with one SRO, and last year added another. The officers are employees of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, which shares the officers’ salaries with the school corporation. The officers work for the schools and on holidays or through the summer, work as deputies for the sheriff’s department.
KV Superintendent Don Street said the grant will also fund new equipment, such as interior door locks, and will also continue the RAPTOR system, a system to scan visitor’s driver’s license, which was added last year at each of the district’s schools. They will also use the School Guard app, which allows teachers and staff to access an app that sends out a call for help faster than going through the 911 system, ensuring a quicker response time if there is an active shooter at any of the schools.
In a press release regarding the awarding of the grants, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb stated, “Indiana remains fully committed to ensuring the safety of Hoosier schools. I’m proud this critical grant program can meet the top safety needs of school districts across the state. This is the latest evolution of how our state partners with local schools to address this issue and help parents, students and staff feel safe and secure each day.”
According to the release from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the program supports a dedicated state grant fund that provides matching grants to school corporations, accredited non-public schools, charter schools or a coalition of school corporations and/or charter schools applying jointly to:
1. Employ a school resource officer (salary, benefits and basic 40-hr training course);
2. Conduct a threat assessment; and/or
3. Purchase equipment to restrict access to the school or expedite the notification of first responders;
4. Support firearms training in districts that choose to implement such programs (new for FY20);
5. Support the implementation of a student and parent support services program (new for FY20);
6. Fund the one-time startup costs of an active alert warning system (new for FY 20)
The budget passed during the 2019 General Assembly session allocated $19 million to the SSSG program for school grants and administrative costs.
Street said the corporation is also looking at getting a threat assessment done at the schools. It has been over three years, and he said they should do an assessment every three to five years. Grant money could be used to pay for this service as well.
The Wheatfield Fire Department will use its grant to purchase educational materials for pre-school and elementary school children. David Myers, president of the fire department, said, “Late last week, I found out that WVFD was awarded another grant! This is the NiSource-NIPSCO Safety Grant! We will receive $3,450 to be used towards safety education materials. More specifically, we will purchase fire prevention and safety education materials to be given to children from preschool to third grade in Wheatfield. We are so excited, because we were 1 of 15 recipients out of 39 applicants (a record number)!”
During the month of October, beginning with Fire Safety Week, Wheatfield firefighters will visit preschools and Wheatfield Elementary to teach children about fire safety and safety at home and school. Recently, the fire department also received 800 mhz radios for the firefighters to better communicate with the county dispatchers, sheriff’s deputies and other departments. The radios were a donation from the NIPSCO Schahfer Generating Plant in Wheatfield.