Franklin County schools land nearly $300K for security upgrades

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 07-24-2023 4:05 PM

Four school districts in the region will upgrade their security measures with the help of a state grant.

The Pioneer Valley Regional, Hawlemont Regional, Four Rivers Charter Public and Warwick school districts each received Safer Schools and Communities Initiative grants from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to add security upgrades to their buildings.

Pioneer received $141,850, Four Rivers got $94,284, Hawlemont received $29,958 and Warwick rounds out the Franklin County recipients with $32,900.

Patricia Kinsella, Pioneer superintendent, said the district received the fourth-largest grant in the state. The district will use the money to add more opaque film to windows, increase the number of security cameras and transition from keys to a keycard system at Pioneer Valley Regional School, Northfield Elementary School and Bernardston Elementary School.

“We’re going to be expanding that to all the major outdoor entry points, which will allow us better control of who is coming in and out of the building,” Kinsella said of the keycards. “Keycard access, on the advice of our law enforcement partners, makes our buildings more secure.”

At Warwick’s new independent school, Superintendent Carole Learned-Miller said the grant funding will go toward electric locks, video cameras and the restoration of an alarm system.

“We’re deeply grateful for receiving the grant as we want to be sure our students are kept safe with state-of-the-art security equipment,” Learned-Miller said.

Hawlemont Superintendent Sheryl Stanton said her district’s grant will go toward upgrading the school’s security fire alarm panel, which is reaching the end of its lifespan.

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“It’s functional, but it’s of a generation we’re going to run out of support for,” Stanton explained. “We’re excited about that grant.”

The district will also replace and install additional cameras around Hawlemont Regional School. These sorts of investments, Stanton said, not only make the school welcoming for staff and students, but for the community, which uses the building for Town Meetings and elections.

“I think it’s important the community sees the school as the resource that it is and that we are good stewards of the building,” Stanton said.

In a statement, Secretary of Public Safety and Security Terrence Reidy said security investments are essential to ensuring safe environments for students, where they can focus on learning.

“The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security remains deeply committed to working with our partners across state and local agencies to ensure that our schools provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our children and educators,” Reidy said. “Together, we will continue to build on the many safety initiatives that have been put forward, including the continuation of significant investments in training, emergency preparedness and security infrastructure.”

In Pioneer’s case, Kinsella said the district is coupling these security investments with other initiatives to build a more positive community in the schools through a restorative justice program at the high school and responsive classroom techniques in the elementary schools, which will be co-led by students.

“Student and staff safety and security includes social and emotional and psychological safety in the buildings, and we are working on that as well,” Kinsella said. “Proceeding carefully and creatively with these two initiatives should give both staff and students additional tools to keep our school climate healthy, positive and student-focused.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081. Reporter Julian Mendoza contributed to this story.

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