Senator Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) today announced a new $70,000 investment in student safety for Duluth Public Schools. The funds are part of $25 million in school safety grants for “facility upgrades” at public schools statewide approved May 2018 by the Legislature and Governor Mark Dayton. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) received a total of 1,187 completed grant applications, requesting $255.5 million – more than 10 times the available amount of funding.
“I am pleased that Duluth schools are receiving new public dollars to improve student safety,” said Sen. Simonson. “At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that our schools are chronically underfunded and have been for many years. When applications for school safety improvements outnumber by ten-fold the amount of funding lawmakers provided, it shows that we as a state are falling far short of meeting needs communicated by our local school officials.”
Duluth Public Schools applied for school safety grants at 14 of its schools. MDE awarded Denfeld High School $61,566 for secure building entrances and communication, and Rockridge Academy $9,415 for secure building entrances. A total of 123 schools statewide received public dollars via the grant program.
“Appropriating $25 million to fortify buildings only scratches the surface of the school safety conversation, which I expect to remain front and center when a new Legislature and Governor return to our State Capitol in January,” added Sen. Simonson. “Increasing the number of licensed school counselors, psychologists, and social workers in our schools needs to be a major part of that conversation.”
How the school safety grant application process worked
According to MDE, school districts were allowed to submit separate grant applications for each building. Due to the large number of applications received, high-priority projects submitted on the first day were assigned random numbers to determine the order of funding up to the available $25 million. The final grant award values will be determined after recipients get complete bids from contractors. Schools were able to apply with qualifying projects for up to $500,000 per building. MDE, in consultation with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Minnesota School Safety Center, determined grant eligibility based on project priority, with half of the grant funds available to schools outside of the 11-county metropolitan area. High-priority projects included improvements to exterior entry security, such as access controls, keyless entry systems, door locking and glass integrity, door alarm systems, and structure changes to main entrances. Additions or improvements to communication systems, such as electronic emergency notification systems for staff and first responders, were also considered high-priority projects.