Three Ashtabula County school districts will be stepping up security, thanks to money from the state of Ohio.

Ashtabula Area City Schools, Buckeye Local Schools and Geneva Area City Schools are all getting a piece of the state’s $47 million for security upgrades.

More than 1,100 schools in 81 counties have been awarded this round of money and the state will accept applications for another $53 million, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

Ashtabula Area City Schools will receive $329,000; Buckeye will receive $193,000, and Geneva will receive $250,000, according to the Ohio School Safety Grant list of school districts.

The schools applied for the grant when the program was launched last year with an initial $5 million, but the money was never awarded.

The school districts are getting money for physical safety upgrades, such as security cameras, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems and exterior lighting.

Buckeye Superintendent Patrick Colucci said he’s excited to receive any dollars from the state for security reasons.

“This money can be used for higher level security purposes that will be utilized to increase safety for our students and staff,” he said. “Above and beyond this, last month we added an additional resources officer to the district. Safety and Security is paramount in the Buckeye District and we will examine all avenues available. We will be discussing the use of the $192,000 and implement before school starts.”

Ashtabula Area City Schools (AACS) Superintendent Mark Potts said the district is always concerned with and working towards making buildings as safe as they can possibly be.

“This grant will fund several projects that we were planning to implement and will speed up the process for getting them done,” he said. “We have much in place to make our schools incredibly safe places for our students and staff, but this will allow us to do even more. We are very grateful to be recipients of this grant.”

AACS Treasurer Mark Astorino said, “In working with our security consultants from the Ohio School Council and Security Technologies, along with our school resource officers, HR and facilities department, the district performed both a security assessment and vulnerability assessment on all AACS school buildings.”

That process resulted in AACS applying for Ohio School Safety Grant funds totaling $417,20, covering all seven school buildings.

“These funds will be used for electronic door controls, replacing the lockdown alerting system and security camera upgrades at all school buildings,” Astorino said. “The AACS Board of Education authorized a number of security projects in June 2022. With staff back in the buildings on Aug. 15, and students back on Aug. 17, there are a number of significant changes to safety protocols that are being implemented.”

Even before this round of grant money, all Ashtabula County school districts decided to hire at least one school resource officer for every campus, beginning in August. All districts also routinely conduct active shooter drills. All rooms in every county school are numbered and have that number clearly posted on exterior windows for identification in an emergency. All schools lock their doors and visitors must use an entry button to obtain entrance and then report dwirectly to the main office.

Ashtabula, Geneva, Jefferson, Pymatuning Valley and St. John schools have door barricades, or anchors, installed in the schools. Barricades are attached to classroom doors and are locked in place. The door anchors are “impenetrable” and can be activated by foot from inside a classroom, according to the company’s website.

Jefferson and Buckeye Local Schools have shatter-resistant glass and extra locks on all doors, as well as video surveillance that covers the interior and exterior of the building. All entrances to the building have cameras fixed on them.

Days after the deadly school shooting last May in Texas, DeWine said he would provide more money for school security upgrades. The money for this year’s grants are supported by federal pandemic relief funding the state received through the American Rescue Plan Act.

The school districts receiving the most money are $1.6 million Cleveland, more than $900,000 for Cincinnati and Columbus, $800,000 for Springfield, and more than $600,000 for Akron, Dublin and Lakota, north of Cincinnati.

Ohio schools that didn’t apply or receive grants through the program will get first priority when the state begins accepting applications in the coming weeks for the remaining $53 million.

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