Upgrades Continue in District

APS Safety, Security
Posted on 03/28/2023
Image of Local Schools Upgrade Safety(courtesy James Nelson, 19 News)

As of February of this year, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has announced more than $173 million in grants awarded to school districts to improve safety and security.

After Monday’s shooting at a Tennessee elementary school, 19 News reached out to more than a dozen local grant recipients for an update on how they’re using the money.

Some districts, like Lakewood and Cleveland, shared said plans were in the works to upgrade or install certain equipment.

As of Tuesday morning, Akron Public Schools was the only district that confirmed it has spent its grant money; the district also provided a list of security upgrades attributed directly to the state grant.

According to spokesperson Mark Williamson, the district spent all of its $1.3 million in funding and then some. He said the district has invested about $4 million in student safety.

The list includes brand new metal detectors, book bag scanners, bags to secure student cell phones during school hours, along with upgrades to the district’s entire video surveillance system which spans 47 buildings.

“When I started my career 27 years ago, the primary focus was on academic outcomes. Now, the academic piece is still the core of what we do, but it’s center stage [with] safety and security,” said Akron Public Schools’ Chief Operations Officer Steve Thompson.

He elaborated on the list of upgrades, noting that Akron police will be able to monitor the district’s surveillance cameras, giving them a better sense of where to go if they need to respond to an emergency. He said new software will also allow dispatchers to unlock school doors to let police inside, allowing students, faculty and staff to remain in lockdown situations.

Thompson spoke to 19 News just hours after the tragedy in Tennessee.

“I almost hate to admit this, but it’s gaining some level of normalcy, which is scary beyond measure. We’re just becoming numb to it as a nation,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of things to try to secure the environment for our students and staff. From both an external threat and some challenges we’ve had from within the four walls of our own schools.”

Thompson’s full comments, which include a breakdown of safety upgrades, can be viewed in the social media post here >>.
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