Eight Catholic schools in the Diocese have received a combined $147,520 in state-funded grants to enhance the safety and security of their campuses.
The grants were awarded through the Safe Schools Initiative Targeted Grant for Equipment, a project of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Its purpose is to assist schools by providing funding for security planning, purchase of security-related technology, and training in the use of security-related technology.
Nearly 130 public, private and charter schools across the state received grants, based on a competitive grant-review process, with a maximum allowable amount of $25,000.
Recipient schools in the Diocese are Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg ($25,000), St. Joan of Arc School in Hershey ($21,910), St. Joseph School in Danville ($21,010), Our Mother of Perpetual Help School in Ephrata ($24,809) Resurrection School in Lancaster ($6,656), Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Lancaster ($2,415), St. John the Baptist School in New Freedom ($22,176) and York Catholic High School ($23,544).
“The safety of our students and staff is a top priority in our Catholic schools, and so we’re able to make enhancements such as keyless entry at every door, enhanced security cameras, radios for staff to communicate, and go-bags for emergencies and drills,” said Daniel Breen, Diocesan Secretary for Education and Superintendent of Schools. “A lot of funds are needed in order to continually enhance the safety of our schools, and we’re really blessed that Pennsylvania is supporting us with that.”
He also commended school personnel who applied for the grants and undertook the extensive application process, which required information on the goals and objectives, program implementation, supporting data, expected outcomes, sustainability and budget.
“The grant application required work from schools that already are working very, very hard. I’m grateful that they’re willing to put that time in,” he said.
Breen, a parent of children in Catholic schools and a former Catholic school principal, said “safety is absolutely on parents’ minds when they drop their children off.”
Safety also means many things, he said, from physical safety from abuse, intruders and natural disasters, to emotional safety where students know they are loved.
“We take that very much to heart and work very closely with schools to see that we’re offering top-notch programs in an environment and culture that is safe for our students and our families,” Breen said.
Several schools responded to an inquiry from The Witness regarding the safety enhancements they are making as a result of the grant money.
St. Joseph’s in Danville will use the funds to replace the school’s wooden doors at the ends of the main hallways with fire-safe, commercial steel doors equipped with panic bars and electronic latches.
Sacred Heart in Lancaster is adding three cameras to its current security system, and will apply for a second safety grant for additional camera system costs and to update signage throughout the school.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help School in Ephrata is enhancing all of its outside entrances with keyless electronic cards for entry into the building, as well as installing a security cameras at the entrance and throughout the building.
Resurrection Catholic School in Lancaster will purchase 16 radios to enhance its school-wide communication network. Each radio has an extended range. Resurrection will also purchase an FCC license so its radios operate on an exclusive channel. The enhancements will provide the entire school with instant and focused communication.
St. John the Baptist plans to update and upgrade current access control and security-monitoring systems, including adding external security cameras and installing CCTV, keyless entry systems and electric locks.
York Catholic plans to purchase and install additional security cameras and a coordinating operating system for monitoring and safety purposes inside and outside of the school building.
St. Joan of Arc School is purchasing 20 cameras that will be placed throughout the school in order to monitor all areas from the office. The cameras will be installed in the school’s new building, as St. Joan’s relocates from its current site a few blocks from downtown Hershey to Sand Hill Road in Derry Township.
“In our schools, safety is a priority, and we take advantage of any opportunity we have in order to promote safety within the school,” said Sister Eileen McGowan, DM, Principal of St. Joan’s.
When the school relocates to its new campus, at the site of the former Lancaster Mennonite Hershey Campus, in June, the new cameras will be installed. In addition, grant monies will also go toward the purchase of six key fobs for school personnel.
“We do take safety seriously. We’re concerned about the safety of the students, the parents, the teachers. That’s a priority, I think, for every school today,” Sister Eileen said.
We’d like to thank the state for providing the money for the grants. It certainly does come in handy. Anything that we can do to enhance our safety is important to all of us,” she said.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness