State awards region's schools $1M for security upgrades

Hartford — Almost two dozen area schools that have implemented or planned security upgrades will receive a combined total of $1 million in state grants, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced Friday.

The awards were part of $10 million awarded statewide through the School Security Grant Program, created in 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The funding came as welcome news to local officials who've looked for ways to modernize infrastructure, equipment and communication systems to better protect students and teachers.

"It's great news in a year that we've had $1.6 million in cuts to state aid," said Ledyard Public Schools Superintendent Jay Hartling. "We're grateful."

Hartling and Building and Grounds Director Sam Kilpatrick said the district's Security Committee had called for a host of improvements that were implemented over the last two summers, including new doors and security glass at the high school, fencing at Gales Ferry and Juliet W. Long School's playground and improved communications and phone systems letting teachers have access to 911 in classrooms.

Ledyard will receive $58,369 in reimbursements; the district spent about $90,000 for the improvements, making the local match almost $32,000.

In New London, seven schools will benefit from a total of $716,175 in state grants toward security projects totaling $919,825.

Officials requested the funding primarily to enhance school safety technology and upgrade security features districtwide, including improved public announcement systems, school cameras and radios, according to Kate McCoy, the district's executive director for strategic planning, government and media relations. The spending decisions are expected to be vetted through the city's School Building and Maintenance Committee.

Norwich Public Schools will receive more than $112,000 toward $146,000 in security-related improvements, but Business Administrator Athena Nagel said the district was awaiting more details from the state on which projects would receive a boost.

Waterford Public Schools Superintendent Tom Girard said a $5,000 grant from the state would combine with about $10,000 in local funds for a project to update locksets for school doors.

The Lyme-Old Lyme school district also was among the school systems approved for security grants. A $285,607 project for four buildings in Old Lyme will receive $76,371 from the state; the local match is $209,235. A $63,030 project is set for a school in Lyme, with $15,530 from the state and $47,499 from local funds.

All told, 22 New London County schools will receive a combined total of $1,029,350 in reimbursements for projects totaling almost $1.6 million.

The state has made $53 million available to more than 1,200 schools since the grant program began, according to Malloy.

"We have a moral obligation to provide a safe learning environment for our students," he said in a statement.

Day Staff Writers Greg Smith and Kimberly Drelich contributed to this report.

b.kail@theday.com

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