SPRINGDALE -- Three Northwest Arkansas school districts received nearly $1 million combined from a federal program for projects intended to bolster school security.
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, awarded grants to the Elkins, Lincoln and Springdale school districts through its School Violence Prevention Program.
Nationally, the program awarded nearly $50 million this year for school safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools and school grounds, according to a news release from the federal office.
Springdale received $435,451, Lincoln got $321,855 and Elkins received $194,414 -- a total of $$951,720. The Hamburg School District in southeast Arkansas was the only other district in the state that got money this year; it received $55,928.
The program provides money directly to states, units of local government, Indian tribes and public agencies, including school districts. The maximum grant is $500,000. Recipients are required to contribute a local cash match of at least 25% toward the total cost of approved projects during the award period, according to the Policing Services office.
Springdale will use part of the money to hire a school safety liaison who will work with each building to enhance safety plans, according to Deputy Superintendent Kelly Hayes. The district also will partner with Ozark Guidance for some social and emotional training for students. In addition, each building will get some sophisticated alarm systems that detect certain chemicals, loud noises and smoke, Hayes said.
Springdale is buying more security cameras for its campuses, which will cover the district's matching portion of the grant, he said.
Lincoln will spend its money on surveillance cameras, bus radios and keyless entries, district officials said.
The grant "allows us to do something we need to do anyway," said Mary Ann Spears, Lincoln's superintendent. "We're a very small district, with declining enrollment, and finances getting tighter every year. This grant allows us to put some things in place that are desperately needed."
Much of Elkins' $194,414 will go toward upgrading internal and external locking systems, Superintendent Jeremy Mangrum said. Elkins also plans to use the money on new parking-lot lighting, automated external defibrillators and kits used to stop bleeding.
Elkins expects to spend about $259,000 on these items and projects, including its 25% local share of the costs.
"Student safety is our top priority -- always has been and always will be," Mangrum said. "We're always exploring opportunities to enhance that."