Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely School District awarded $495,000 school safety grant

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/4/18

ELY – The Ely School District is one of 90 Minnesota public school districts notified this week that they will be awarded a school safety grant to be used for security and violence prevention …

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Ely School District awarded $495,000 school safety grant

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ELY – The Ely School District is one of 90 Minnesota public school districts notified this week that they will be awarded a school safety grant to be used for security and violence prevention improvements.

ISD 696 received $495,000. As many as 90 state schools or charter schools received a total of $25 million in funding for improvements at 123 building sites across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

The funds may be used to predesign, design, construct, furnish and equip school facilities, including renovating and expanding existing buildings.

For the last year, Ely school board members have been discussing and planning a project to connect the three campus buildings as a way to make the campus more secure by eliminating the need for students to walk outdoors between classes during the school day.

“That project will cost between $1 million and $1.5 million,” Superintendent Kevin Abrahamson said on Tuesday. “It is very good news that we received a big portion of the cost to make our campus buildings safer.”

Bonding may be an option for the other $750,000 estimated to be required for the building-connection project. “We are just in the pre-design phase of the project,” Abrahamson said. The school board is looking at a couple of different options for the school campus and will continue discussions next week.

The Minnesota Department of Education received a total of 1,187 complete applications, requesting $255.5 million—more than 10 times the available amount of funding.

“Students and teachers clearly need more support to ensure our kids are safe,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “When we have more than 1,000 schools asking for over $250 million in funding to secure their buildings, we must respond with urgency. The school safety grants announced (Monday) only scratch the surface. A more comprehensive approach, including efforts to improve school climate, expand mental health services, and enact common-sense gun safety measures is needed.”

Governor Mark Dayton and the 2018 Legislature passed school safety grants last spring. Gov. Dayton proposed a more comprehensive Safe and Secure Schools Act package, including intervention and support for expelled students and improving student access to mental health support. He also supported legislation to reduce gun violence by passing criminal background checks, age restrictions on assault rifles, and a red flag law.

Districts were able 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.

The Minnesota Department of Education, 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.

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