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The Fredericktown Police Department and Fredericktown School District recently joined forces for the COPS Office STOP School Violence: School Violence Prevention Program (COPS SVPP) Grant.

COPS Office or the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services states they are committed to school safety and work toward student success in a supportive and safe environment. According to their website, COPS Office has invested more than $900 million in American schools with grant programs like COPS SVPP.

Through the joint efforts of Assistant Superintendent Shannon Henson, Police Chief Eric Hovis and Police Clerk Erica Johnson the grant was awarded and will be used for equipment, technology and training.

The total awarded budget is $197,420 with the federal share being $148,065 and the match required by the City of Fredericktown will be $49,355.

“This was a group effort,” Johnson said. “The Fredericktown R-I School District Assistant Superintendent Shannon Henson, brought it to the attention of Chief Hovis, who enlisted my help with the project.”

Henson said he heard about the COPS SVPP Grant through his membership with the Missouri School Safety Association.

“The MOSSA and our regional representative, Scott Ezell, who works for the Sikeston School District, made members aware of the grant,” Henson said. “I am always looking for grants, but would have missed this one if not for him. This is the second safety grant we have received and we hope to apply for more in the future.”

Johnson said now that the grant has been awarded there will be much more work to implement the items, receive the funding and complete the reporting.

 “This was the first project I started on as assistant superintendent,” Henson said. “I feel we are very fortunate. Only about 190 municipalities, including only two in Missouri are receiving these funds.”

Henson said he met with school administration, school resource officers, other members of the staff and received information from Hovis to determine the needs of the school.

 “We had to express our need for safety improvement versus our current financial resources,” Henson said. “We had to submit a project narrative that described our needs along with budgeting and timelines.”

Henson said not all items applied for were approved but around 85 percent of the requests made were.

“Mr. Henson put a lot of work into gathering the information for costs and he also composed the required project narrative and budget narratives and gathered the necessary letters of support for the application,” Johnson said. “I believe we were awarded the grant due to excellent work provided to complete the grant. The details they look for were there such as dollar amounts, why we need these improvements etc.”

Johnson said the school district will be able to purchase equipment to make the schools more secure, including doors, radios, lights, cameras and intercoms as well as allow for Active Shooter Training.

“The scope is to improve overall safety,” Henson said. “In our grant narrative, we discussed our need to improve district lighting, install more secure entry systems, improve our building camera systems, install cameras on school buses and improve our ability to communicate.”

Henson said they included a safety assessment by an outside agency to help with these projects as well as the opportunity to provide training for local police department and school resource officers.

“School safety is always our number one priority and we are constantly checking our procedures and plans,” Henson said. “It is difficult when there are physical plant challenges with building design, technology and equipment that you know are safety concerns, but you do not necessarily have the funds to tackle bigger projects.”

Henson said this grant will allow the district to make some of those improvements.

“It will be a two-year project, with most of the building and lighting improvements taking place during the summer months,” Henson said. “We are already working with vendors on some of the other projects.”

Johnson said this is a great benefit and will mean a lot to the school district.

“I am so excited about this grant,” Johnson said. “This is 100 percent a benefit to the school district. This will mean the schools will be physically more secure, the staff will be safer with the radios and intercom systems, the public will be safer with better outdoor lighting. It is all just really good stuff.”

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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