HAZLE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) School safety is paramount across the nation. In Pennsylvania, state grants are being given to school districts to help administrators, students and parents, alike, sleep just a little bit better.

It’s money that can be committed to safety instead of having to worry about taking it out of the general fund and taking away from other essentials.

With late February came the announcement from state legislators that school districts would be receiving state grants to fund security on their campuses. Most districts in Luzerne county, like Hanover Area, are cashing in $30,000-$45,000 for different initiatives.

“Moving forward, we’re looking to use that as part of our school resource officer salary, we have what’s called a raptor visitation management system and we’re also looking to ALICE, which is a company that trains us to be instructors to do active shooter training,” said safety and security administrator Michael McCree, also noting that heading toward the third year of his tenure, bleeding the budget for security was an issue. “The school, per se, did not have a security budget. We weren’t able to do things. This extra money allows us to have security measures which is why I was hired and of the utmost importance, be able to create a safe school and safe environment from intruders as well as students inside the classrooms.”

Districts are charged with the safety and well being of every student in their system. For growing districts like Hazleton Area — it’s already more than 12,000 students and growing every day.

Hazleton Area received a standard grant as well as a competitive grant totaling more than $150,000. With their population growing rapidly, that means more people to keep out of harm’s way.

“It takes a lot of additional funds to continue to allow our administration and our safety personnel to make sure all the buildings are safe and secure for all of our students, community members as well as parents and guardians that come in and visit,” said Hazleton Area School District superintendent Brian Uplinger.

Ed Harry is tasked with keeping the student body, the staff and everyone in Hazleton Area’s buildings safe. He says stretching a tax dollar is one thing while being able to commit resources back to the classroom is another.

“Especially in a district this size, with the limited tax base that we have, it’s very difficult to get the funding to run the district as a whole. $152,000 that we can use for these initiatives is $152,000 that you can now use toward the education of the students,” said Harry.

Whether it’s $30,000 for a smaller district or six figures for a rapidly expanding one, schools across the commonwealth are getting safer one project at a time.

“Things like this would be on our wish list that ‘well, if the funds become available we can get this,'” he added. “Thanks to the grants we move them from the wish list to the ‘to do’ list.”

Last week, Senator John Yudichak announced the grants:

State Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon) announced that school safety and security grants totaling over $1.1 million were awarded in the 14th Senatorial District.

School districts and other entities that will receive grants in the 14th Senatorial District include:

  • Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 – $307,321
  • Jim Thorpe Area School District- $308,507
  • Lehighton Area School District – $40,000
  • Palmerton Area School District – $35,000
  • Panther Valley School District – $35,000
  • Weatherly Area School District – $30,000
  • Crestwood School District – $40,000
  • Greater Nanticoke Area School District – $40,000
  • Hanover Area School District – $40,000
  • Hazleton Area School District – $152,800
  • Pittston Area School District – $40,000
  • Wilkes-Barre Area School District -$45,000
  • Wyoming Area School District – $40,000
  • Wyoming Valley West School District – $45,000

“Our students, faculty and staff across the 14th Senatorial District and the Commonwealth should feel safe and secure every day that they walk into school,” said Senator John Yudichak. “The School Safety and Security Grant Program is a vital resource for our school districts and intermediate units as they work to ensure the safety of their students, faculty and staff.”

“We are most appreciative to Senator Yudichak and the Luzerne County legislative delegation for their ongoing commitment and support in helping our schools ensure the health, safety and welfare of our students and staff.   This continued funding helps our IU and districts to meet the modern day school security challenges within our existing buildings and also helps to address some of the mental health needs in addition to physical security needs.  We look forward to an ongoing commitment at the state level as we continue to secure and support all school facilities and the individuals within them,” said Dr. Anthony Grieco, Executive Director of the Luzerne County IU 18.

Eligible uses for the grants include hiring school security officers, purchasing security-related technology, completing safety and security assessments, implementing violence prevention curricula, offering counseling services for students, and creating other programs to protect students.

The grants were awarded by the School Safety and Security Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) as part of the School Safety and Security Grant Program, which was created by lawmakers in 2018.