School safety issues addressed at Anna meeting
School safety concerns were addressed last Friday morning at a meeting which was held in Anna.
The meeting was held in the media center at Anna Junior High School.
Those who attended the meeting included Dr. Keith Reinhardt, superintendent of Jonesboro School District No. 43; Shelly Clover-Hill, superintendent of Shawnee School District No. 84; Cheryl Graff, regional superintendent of schools for Union, Alexander, Jackson, Perry and Pulaski counties; Chuck Goforth, superintendent of Anna School District No. 37; U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill.; and Union County Sheriff Scott Harvel.
Discussion at the meeting focused on a variety of school safety concerns and issues, with a focus on how matters need to be addressed at the local level.
Rep. Bost addressed the availability of federal grant funds which can be used to improve security at schools.
The School Violence Prevention Program is a U.S. Department of Justice initiative that funds the grants.
Bost said the program was created by bipartisan legislation, the Securing Our Schools Act. The act was sponsored by Bost and signed into law in March.
The grant provides funds for schools to purchase life-saving technology to deter threats and to immediately contact first responders when incidents take place.
The School Violence Prevention Program provides funding directly to states and units of local government to be used to improve security at schools and on school grounds.
The goal is to improve security through evidence-based safety programs that may include one of the following:
Coordination with local law enforcement.
Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent school violence against others and the individual.
Placement and use of metal detectors, locks, lighting and other deterrent measures.
Acquisition and installation of technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency.
Any other measure that may provide a significant improvement in security.
With an effort led by Sheriff Harvel, the seven public school districts in Union County responded quickly and have applied for funding through the federal grant program. Southern Five Regional Planning District assisted in the application.
The local grant application is seeking $497,000 in grant funds. The deadline to submit the application was July 30. Awarding of the grants is expected in September.
Local education officials said at Friday’s meeting that they were glad to have an opportunity to be a part of a proposal that could help to make schools safer. School officials also praised Harvel for his efforts in seeking the grant funds.
Bost noted that the ultimate goal should be to provide the best education possible for students in the safest of environments. The Congressman did a walk-through at the Anna school following Friday morning’s meeting.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office is constantly working to make schools safer.
“It’s been a priority of mine to work on school safety,” the sheriff said. “I want to be proactive about it.”
Harvel said he continues to work to “make sure nobody has to be worried about their kids being safe in school.”
Bost praised Union County’s efforts in seeking the funds.
“You’ve jumped out there ahead of everybody else,” he said.