Schools OK nearly $320K for safety upgrade
Community counseling, social-emotional training to be funded
St. Mary’s school board members approved the use of almost $320,000 in state grant money for school safety and security upgrades required by the Safe to Learn Act of 2018. But staff won’t be able to use the money until the St. Mary’s County commissioners approve it at a future meeting.
The $317,217 in funding won’t cover the entirety of the 11 programs and initiatives briefly discussed at the Wednesday school board meeting, but is “a very good start,” said Mike Wyant, public schools’ director of safety and security.
The amount of grant money was calculated based on actors like the number of students enrolled at the public schools and the number of buildings. A breakdown of how the funding would be spent on each of the 11 local programs was not provided at the meeting.
Programs to receive the Safe to Learn funding include the school watch program, where law enforcement would be paid overtime to patrol schools, and community counseling for stu-
dents who may need more specialized help.
Other programs to receive funding include: the school bus traffic safety enforcement program; the Crisis Prevention Institute; mental health first aid training for staff; PREPaRE; “Stop the Bleeding” program; and opioid overdose reversing drug Naloxone dosage maintenance. Funding would also provide additional training in social emotional learning programs like conscious discipline and restorative practices.
Both programs are being used across the county to help teachers show students how to self-regulate their behavior.
Jim Davis, school board member, said the list of programs to be funded was “very, very ambitious.”
Karen Bailey, school board chairwoman, said staff “didn’t ask for $500,000 and only get $300,000.” She explained there was a funding formula used to determine the grant amount.
She said schools have to send money over to the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office to pay their employees who monitor schools because “they can’t apply for this funding” and grant funding
is sent specifically to schools to delegate to programs or security improvements. According to budget documents, school staff expect to spend $90,000 to help with the additional cost of patrolling “all schools, with a focus on elementary schools.”
There are currently three school resource officers from the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office assigned to the three county high schools, as well as two other officers that split their time between the four public middle schools in St. Mary’s.
Wyant said the funding was intended to supplement — not replace — existing local and state funding meant for school
Mary Washington, school board member, asked about the “who, what, when and where” involved with the community counseling. Budget documents state that staff have $64,940 designated for this program, which includes mental health, wraparound and outreach services for students and schools.
Cheryl Long, public schools’ director of student services, said teachers recommend students who might be anxious about something in their life or “not able to focus on their work.”
Washington said a portion of the grant funding would help
students who “don’t have the resources to pay for” counseling or therapy they may need.
Another portion of the funding would be used to “train the trainer” for a mental health first aid program for staff, Long said.
Cathy Allen, school board member, said she liked the idea of offering additional professional development because it “extends the reach of the dollars” allotted by the grant.
Superintendent Scott Smith said the greatest investment school staff can make is “in our people” so they can be better prepared to invest in children attending St. Mary’s schools.