Jackson County Schools receives safety grant

JCPS will install over 100 new security cameras. File photo JCPS will install over 100 new security cameras. File photo

Jackson County Schools will install over 100 new security cameras throughout the school system after it received over a quarter of a million dollars from the Center for Safer Schools’ Safety Grant Program. 

“The grant covers three areas, two of which are related to mental health services for our students, and then the third for technology specifically for cameras,” said Deputy Superintendent Jake Buchanan.

The school system received a total of $278,410 in grant funds. Of that, $45,000 will be allocated to services for students in crisis, just under $10,000 will be put towards training to increase school safety and the remaining amount will be used to purchase security cameras for Jackson County Schools. 

“We’re super excited about this one,” said Buchanan.

According to Buchanan, the money will allow JCPS to replace and update some of its older cameras, as well as install over 100 cameras in completely new locations.

“Those camera locations have been determined by our safety walk-throughs that we do every fall,” Buchanan said.

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The school system conducts safety walk-throughs with school and county staff, including Emergency Management Director Todd Dillard, the county manager, EMS Manager for Harris Regional Hospital Matthew Burrell, Fire Marshal Michael Forbis, Jamie Ashe who represents the Sheriff’s Office as the sergeant for School Resource Officers, the SRO at each school and the school’s admin team.

Together this group combed through each school and identified locations where law enforcement, school administration or emergency management had concerns about areas that weren’t covered.

“We have received this grant in previous years, and it was usually around $15,000 to $20,000,” Buchanan said. “But when we saw the amount that the legislature had put into the budget, which was much more than it had ever been, we actually submitted a grant for a much larger amount of money.”

This budget cycle the North Carolina General Assembly designated $35 million in funding for school safety grants through the Center for Safer Schools, operated by the North Carolina Department of Public Instructions. Of that, just over $8 million was given to charter schools in the state and $26.9 million was given to traditional school districts. The largest allocation went to Gaston County Schools for $750,000.

Haywood County Schools received $300,000 in this round of grant funds through the Center for Safer Schools, Macon County Schools received $300,000 and Swain County Schools received $96,600. Shining Rock Classical Academy, the charter school in Haywood, received $101,000, and Summit Charter School in Jackson received $22,663.

The school system has previously worked to create single points of entry for all its schools — a $7 million project funded by the county commission — and secure classroom doors. In 2022, the school system received a $420,008 grant from Community Oriented Policing Services to install electronic locks with access control on 300 classroom doors, as well as implement a new digital radio system that provided reliable communication to remote areas of the county.

“This is another big step in keeping our students as safe as they can be,” Buchanan said at the time. “Along with our current single point of entry project, we will have multiple layers of security at each school.” 

Buchanan asked for permission from the school board to undergo the full RFP process to spend up to $223,557 for security cameras only with money from the grant. The funding requires no local match. The board approved the plan unanimously.

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