New Hampshire taps fed funds to upgrade school security

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire is planning to tap into federal pandemic relief money to upgrade security in schools.

The proposal, which was approved Friday by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, will divert $10.26 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to provide security grants to public and private schools to harden their buildings and train educators to respond to the threat of active shooters.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut estimated the funding would pay for about 250 security grant awards for schools ranging from $40,000 to $50,000 per request.

Schools will be allowed to apply for the funding, and the state Commission on Public School Infrastructure will decide which projects receive the awards, he said.

“The commission will meet and develop applications for use by the schools that would support allowed projects,” Edelblut wrote in his request to the committee. “The commission will review each proposal and make project funding recommendations to the governor, who may authorize such expenditures, as appropriate.”

The state has submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Education asking whether ARPA funds can be used to improve security at private schools.

With a rash of recent high-profile shootings, schools across the country are once again wrestling with upgrades to security procedures and systems to handle the threat of attacks on their buildings, teachers and students.

In New Hampshire, some districts are seeking to incorporate security designs into new buildings – such as panic buzzers, electronic door locks, high-tech cameras and specialized glass meant to slow down a shooter. Other schools want to create secure vestibules, where visitors are screened, at the main entrance.

Lawmakers in at least 26 states poured nearly $1 billion into school safety in 2018 in the wake of several deadly school shootings, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least 200 legislative proposals addressing school safety were introduced in 39 different states, the group said.

Between 2018 and 2021, New Hampshire doled out more than $27 million in hundreds of grants to school districts to secure buildings, install cameras, bullet-proof windows, and improve communication systems.

In Congress, Republican lawmakers are pushing for approval of the The Luke and Alex School Safety Act, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to create a federal clearinghouse on school safety for use by educational and law-enforcement agencies, colleges, health professionals and the public.

The bill is named after Luke Hoyer and Alex Schachter, two of the 17 students killed in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.