Apollo-Ridge to improve school security

| Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 7:02 a.m.

The Apollo-Ridge School District is beefing up security for next school year.

District officials on Monday said they'll use a $25,000 state grant they received last week to improve their school security systems.

That's on top of another $28,800 grant received last month for a school resource police officer, all while the board contemplates bugging district buses for sound.

“We just want to keep our kids as safe as possible,” Superintendent Matt Curci said. “That's our top priority.”

Curci applied for the grants three months ago through the state Education Department's Office for Safe Schools.

The state gave Apollo-Ridge priority for the school resources officer grant and awarded it in mid-January. The district was given priority because its police officer, who works for the Kiski Township Police Department, is trained in interacting with children in school settings.

The grant requires the district to maintain the officer's position for another two school years and qualifies Apollo-Ridge to receive half the award again next school year without reapplying.

The $25,000 the district received last week is a Safe Schools Targeted Grant. It's awarded to districts that demonstrate plans to further prevent violence and improve their emergency preparedness.

Curci said the district received the grant to improve communication between buildings, video surveillance and visitor management. The plans are still in their beginning stages, he said, and are lacking specifics.

“We want to have it done by the fall of next year, but it's too early to tell,” he said. “We'll be discussing it more in the coming weeks when the money is finalized.”

Including the $53,800 the district received from the Office for Safe Schools, the district has accrued about $109,000 this year worth of state grants and subsidies to help offset its costs, according to Board President Greg Primm.

“We're very happy to have brought in that money for the district to help balance the budget,” he said.

It's still unclear whether Apollo-Ridge's 2014-15 preliminary budget will raise taxes, Primm said.

The district has already agreed in December, however, not to raise taxes beyond the state's 3.1 percent limit. More information will be available in the coming weeks, Primm said, as the district nears its May due date for preliminary budget approval.

One line item that may be included in the 2014-15 budget is the installation of audio surveillance on each of the district's buses.

The move was made legal this month when Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Act 9 of 2014, which provides exemptions to school districts on certain wiretapping laws in an effort to prevent bullying.

Curci said the board will further discuss the matter next month and could potentially have the audio systems in place by the start of next year.

“It's not something we would implement until next year, and it's up for further discussion,” he said. “I think it would be help us protect our kids.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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