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Pennsylvania Grants $40M In Competitive School Safety Grants

KEYSTONE CROSSROADS - The state has approved $40 million in grants for school districts to improve safety.

Over a dozen school districts in Central Pennsylvania received grants, including the Altoona Area School District, the Keystone Central School District and the Smethport Area School District. None of Centre County's school district was awarded a competitive grant.

These competitive grants are in addition to $25,000 that most districts received last year.

Pennsylvania enacted Act 44 in reaction to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

"This grant program has already proven to be very successful in helping local school districts take the steps they need to make our students safer and our school buildings more secure," Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-Bedford) said in a statement. He is on the 17-member School Safety and Security Committee, which approved the grants.

"This $40 million will provide some much-needed assistance to ensure our schools are safe; however, the total request from schools was $177.6 million, which illustrates that we must continue to fund this vital program," Langerholc said.

About half of all school districts in Pennsylvania are getting grants, most ranging from less than $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Three districts - the Norristown Area School District, the Philadelphia School District and the Upper Darby School District - got more than $1 million.

The committee said that 75 percent of grantees asked for funding related to security planning and security technology. Others focused on mental health related services and programs in schools.

Kimberlie Rieffannacht, Director of Education for the Huntingdon Area School District, said her district hopes to address both issues with their grant, which is about $185,000.

"We want to make sure that our learners are in a good state of mind and in a good place, are healthy both mentally and physically," Rieffannacht said. "And that's what we wanted this safety grant to focus on."

In addition, $7.5 million was granted to about two dozen community violence prevention programs, like the Violence Reduction Intervention Proposal in Allegheny County, Collective Impact McKean in McKean County and the Bold Futures Mentoring Project in Philadelphia County.

In the proposed 2019-20 budget, the Governor is asking for $45 million to continue giving out school safety grants.

Keystone Crossroads is a statewide reporting collaborative of WITF, WPSU and WESA, led by WHYY. This story originally appeared at  https://whyy.org/programs/keystone-crossroads.