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Schools receive grant
County is given $213,000 for safety
Thursday, August 19, 2010
By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Henry County Schools have received a $213,000 grant to support emergency planning and school safety.
Fifth District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello announced the grant Wednesday at the Henry County Administration Building.
It will be "an effort between law enforcement and between our schools to make sure that when those kids get on the school bus we know we've done everything we can to ensure their safety," he said.
According to Perriello, the $213,335 grant is from the U.S. Department of Education's Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Program.
The school system's application required coordination with community partners, including the Henry County Sheriff's Office, Health Department, Piedmont Community Services, Henry County government and the Carlisle School, he added.
"In the event of an emergency, communication and cooperation are essential to ensure the schools' response," said Henry County School Superintendent Anthony Jackson. "This grant will provide the funding needed to make sure that all staff are prepared, trained and have the means necessary to communicate with first responders."�
The two-year grant will fund equipment and services that will allow the schools to strengthen their current emergency management plan, said county schools spokeswoman Melany Stowe. Both Henry County Schools and Carlisle School will receive funds for safety equipment.
"One key element of the grant application is the purchase of digital control stations for all schools and buildings within the district and at Carlisle School," Jackson said. "These equipment upgrades will enable us to communicate directly with our 911 service and the sheriff's department and all first responders without having to go to a cell phone."�
The digital control stations also will be used in events such as inclement weather. Jackson said that if schools have to close because of weather, he will be able to make the announcement from his office, and the information will go out instantly to all schools.
"While cell phones, e-mails, faxes are quick and inexpensive ways to communicate, they can also delay the message, so this will help us tremendously. In the event of an emergency, minutes are precious," Jackson said.
Stowe said the digital control stations had been on the school system's wish list, especially since digital radio systems were installed in school buses. But the $66,000 cost for the stations and handheld equipment was "hard to justify" in light of budget cuts this year, she said, explaining why the system sought the grant.
Jackson said the grant also will provide funds for supplies for infectious disease response, supplies for food defense and food-borne illness response and additional emergency go-kits. Training for many faculty and staff, including first aid and CPR training and grief and trauma recovery training, also will be covered.
Mock emergency drills will be held for each school community, and they will including the community partners, Jackson said. He added that the grant also will fund the Henry County Sheriff's Office's vulnerability assessments at all schools and buildings.
"History has proven Henry County is not immune to natural disasters, and unfortunately events such as the Columbine High School event and the Virginia Tech shootings also remind us that there are evil people in the world who want to do harm to others," said Dale Wagoner, director of public safety.
"We are excited about receiving this grant. It will provide Henry County with funds necessary to reduce the risk and consequences of disasters, specifically those instances at the schools," Wagoner said. "Henry County Schools has always made safety and security of the children its number one priority."�