School Safety Funding

Colorado $41.5 Million Fund Available for School Safety Communications

DENVER, CO, February 7, 2011 – At the School Safety Summit held at the Colorado State Capitol on Friday, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) announced that a $41.5 million fund tied to the National School Lunch Act could be used to finance school improvements including the purchase of school emergency communications systems.

The announcement to the group of 25 school safety stakeholders was made by Ted Hughes, Director of the Division of Capital Construction Assistance within CDE. Hughes explained that his office’s Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program could finance technology that would improve communications between schools and first responders during an emergency.

State senator Steve King, who led the Summit, will introduce on February 18 legislation to establish a School Emergency Communications Plan. Such a measure, first in the nation, would help reduce personal injury and property damage by enabling response agencies to be in direct contact with radio-equipped school staff during school incidents.

King said his proposal closely follows the interoperability principles in the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Stakeholders attended the Summit to review funding opportunities and training resources that would help schools incorporate the NECP into Colorado’s existing School Response Framework.

QZAB funds are available to schools in which at least 35 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches provided under the National School Lunch Act. CDE figures show that over 252,000 K-12 students are eligible for the lunch program, or nearly 39% of all K-12 students in Colorado.

Hughes said that schools in more than two-thirds of Colorado school districts would qualify for QZAB funding, which can be used for providing equipment, training teachers and other school personnel, rehabilitating or repairing school facilities, or developing course materials.

The funding program is designed to foster school partnerships with businesses. According to Hughes, the program will match 10-to-1 all cash or in-kind contributions made by private sector entities. The QZAB program authorizes long-term zero-interest financing that provides tax credits to the lender.

To track issues covered in the School Safety Summit series, visit SchoolSafetySummit.org.

Douglas County Receives Funding for Interoperable Communications in Schools

HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, Jun 6, 2011 –  Governor John Hickenlooper will sign a new bill on Friday that ensures schools will have quick and reliable communication with first responders. Senate Bill 11-173, “Interoperable Communications in Schools,” is the first in the nation to envision statewide interoperability that includes all schools. The measure was introduced by Senator Steve King.

Interoperable Communications Bill Signing

When: Friday, June 10, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.

Where: Rock Canyon High School, 5810 McArthur Ranch Road, Highlands Ranch, CO 80124

Currently many first responders across the state are unable to directly communicate with school personnel during an emergency because they are using different radio systems. This can slow the flow of critical information needed to respond to a medical emergency, or lock down a school during the search for a dangerous suspect.

“Douglas County is ahead of the curve when it comes to interoperability,” said Douglas County School District Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen. “The District and Sheriff’s Office have already tested and installed interoperable communications systems in 15 middle and high schools throughout the county, ensuring first responders get the information they need quickly.”

This was Phase I that was completed in 2010 through a $247,500 U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant.

With the resources provided by Senate Bill 11-173, and $1.1 million in new funding from the Douglas County Emergency Telephone Service Authority (E911 Authority), the Sheriff’s Office and the School District will continue to implement interoperable communications in the 67 remaining school facilities in Douglas County. The E911 Authority will grant $200,000 to install equipment in 2011 (Phase II) and the remainder (Phase III) of the funding and installation will occur in 2012.

Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver said, “The safety of our children is one of our highest priorities. This system will reduce our response time to any school-related emergency and permit my deputies to communicate with school officials on the scene. My office is extremely appreciative of the E911-Authority for their generous contribution to this program.”