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Burlington County Freeholder Director Kate Gibbs today announced that the county’s groundbreaking initiative to enhance the safety and security of all twenty-one public high schools continues to quickly progress, as the Freeholder Board voted unanimously this evening to award $5.4 million in grants to the Florence, Maple Shade, Rancocas Valley Regional, Riverside, and Willingboro School Districts.
The county’s innovative program, launched only four short months ago, has now provided grant funding to six school districts.
“I am pleased that nearly one-third of our public high schools in Burlington County have now been approved for grant funding to enhance the safety and security of their buildings,” said Freeholder Director Gibbs. “With each vote and grant that’s awarded, we are continuing to deliver on the commitment I made earlier this year when the program was announced. Once again, I encourage every other school district to submit their applications expeditiously so we can provide security measures to better protect all of our students, teachers, and staff members, and help deliver local property tax relief for our residents.”
In June, Freeholder Director Gibbs introduced the county’s $20 million grant program during a press conference at the Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly. The voluntary program requires each participating school district to make grant applications to the county and agree to a security evaluation by a highly-qualified architectural firm.
Before the end of the summer, all twenty-one public high schools agreed to participate in the program and had their evaluations completed for possible safety and security upgrades. The architectural firm’s written reports and county grant application paperwork were received by every school at the same time in September. Schools may apply for some or all of the security recommendations.
The Pemberton Township School District was the first district to submit a proposal for grant funding, and subsequently was approved for the county’s initial grant two weeks ago.
The county has committed to funding capital enhancements identified in the evaluations, which may include things like: new entrance vestibules, emergency notification systems, classroom door locks, portable screening devices, panic alarms, entry buzzers, and security cameras, among others. The program does not dictate or mandate safety procedures, staff guidelines or other considerations best left up to the individual school districts.
“Each morning parents trust that their child is arriving at a safe environment where he or she can learn and grow,” said Rancocas Valley Regional Superintendent Dr. Chris Heilig. “I am thrilled to have a partner in Freeholder Director Gibbs, and would like to sincerely commend her for stepping up and offering to help in a big way. The grant is especially meaningful for us as the county program has now come full circle since the announcement at our high school this spring.”
The county is accepting applications from school districts on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no deadline to apply.