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$25 million in safety grants awarded to Minnesota schools

Aitkin, Brainerd and Pequot Lakes public schools are among 90 Minnesota school districts awarded school safety grants to be used for security and violence prevention improvements.

Funds can be used to pre-design, design, construct, furnish and equip schools, including renovating and expanding existing buildings.

Aitkin High School and Nisswa Elementary School each received $195,000, while Pequot Lakes middle and high schools received $45,200.

The 90 school districts received a total of $25 million.

"Students and teachers clearly need more support to ensure our kids are safe," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a news release. "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 today 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."

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 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.

Gov. Mark Dayton and the 2018 Legislature passed school safety grants last spring. 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.

"Making sure that a student's learning environment is safe and secure is vital in ensuring they receive a world-class education," Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, said in a news release. "(The) news that ... local school districts are set to receive school safety grants represents real, tangible steps that will ensure our students are safe. This is great news for our community and I was proud to support this funding during the previous legislative session."