EVART — School building safety has been an important focus for most districts and law enforcement. Unfortunately, not every school district has the necessary funds to properly secure its buildings.

On March 20, the Michigan State Police announced 56 school districts, 15 private schools, 11 charter schools and five sheriff’s departments would each receive part of $4 million from the Competitive School Safety Grant Program.

Evart Public Schools was one district that was granted the money.

“Because of the safety issues going on around the nation, we wanted to provide a grant,” said Nancy Becker-Bennett, Michigan State Police Grants and Community Service Division director.

In October 2014, Michigan school districts and police departments were notified of the grant availability and invited to send applications.

Priority was given to schools with updated Emergency Operations Plans, which is a guide on how to respond to an emergency, and those who sought money to secure access points at school buildings.

“We focused on those priorities because secure access points in school buildings is the best way to improve school safety and security,” Becker-Bennett said.

The Michigan State Police Department received 289 applications for the grant. Out of the $4 million, 80 percent was awarded to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and 20 percent to sheriff’s departments.

“We wanted the grant to provide schools a sense of better security in the buildings and a more positive learning environment for students,” Becker-Bennett said. “Each school was awarded an amount based on what they applied for and what was needed to improve access control security.”

Evart Public Schools was awarded $28,600 to improve building security.

When Jason O’Dell, principal of Evart Middle School, learned about the security grant, he began working with a team of staff from all three school buildings to determine what security needs each one had. From there, they worked with local law enforcement to create memos of understanding, stating these law enforcement agencies would work with them on a safety initiative.

O’Dell put the list of security needs and the memos of understanding together and sent them in with the grant application.

“Our grant total we were asking for came out to be around $109,000 and we were approved for $28,600,” O’Dell said.

With the grant, the school buildings will be adding in Aiphone Video/Voice Systems into the main entrances. They also will be adding access control systems, which require staff and administration to unlock the doors with a key card for them to enter, and once the door is closed it will lock behind them. The grant also provides money to install new security-grade doors where they are needed.

“Unfortunately, we have had a lot of examples around our country that make you want to be as safe and secure as possible to protect our children,” O’Dell said. “You always want to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to security.”

Recently, Evart Middle School installed an Aiphone System with the help of the owner of Affordable Prints in Evart.

“It was like a tester system to see how it would work in the schools,” O’Dell said. “It makes the feeling of security for the students and the staff go up exponentially. With the grant, we will be able to be consistent at all three schools.”

Because the district was notified of the grant on March 20, they have just began to work with the company that will install the systems.

“It shouldn’t be long before the systems are installed,”O’Dell said. “We are hoping to have them in by the time the kids come back from spring break. We are very excited to have it and we are going to put the grant to good use.”