Duluth, Minn., Schools Get $8.9 million Safety Grant

Jul. 13--The Duluth school district learned a lesson in perseverance Wednesday when it received formal confirmation that it won an $8.9 million health and safety improvement grant from a consortium of federal departments -- a grant the district previously was told it wouldn't receive.

"We are delighted," said Rex Hein, the district's director of curriculum. "We have needs and we're going to make the best use of these resources we can."

Hein said the school district can look forward to receiving about $2.87 million this fall and about the same amount in each of the next two years.

The grant is part of the Department of Education's Safe School/Healthy Students Grant program, so the money will be used to make health and safety improvements. Hein said the district plans to buy security cameras for Duluth elementary and middle schools and high schools in Hermantown and Proctor. Also to be purchased: radios for buses, safety locks for classroom doors, exterior numbers on classroom windows to help emergency crews, teacher training and violence prevention.

Hein said it will be necessary to hire a few additional police liaisons and mental health professionals to fulfill the goals of the grant.

The school district applied for the grant last year and was eliminated from the running but then appealed the rejection.

Hein said the district decided to re-enter its bid for the grant because one of the two reviews of its proposal was excellent and the other mediocre. Hein said one reviewer apparently had not read the proposal carefully enough because it faulted the district for not addressing topics the proposal actually discussed.

Evidently, the federal departments, including the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, agreed with the Duluth school district. They chose it out of 483 other applications to be one of 19 grant recipients and gave it the most money of any of them.

Hein said Duluth will be the financial agent for the grant money and will receive most of it, but the Hermantown and Proctor school districts also will receive some grant money.

Fleta Carol, grants and endowment coordinator for the Proctor school district, said Proctor would spend its share of the money on on-site mental health services, such as bullying prevention and drug and alcohol counseling. After an inventory of its security equipment is conducted, the district may add radios or cameras, she said. Staff training in nonviolence and early childhood mental health screening also are on Proctor's wish list.

No one from the Hermantown school district was available for comment.

The next step for the Duluth school district is to meet with the organizations that helped it apply for the grant -- including the Proctor, Hermantown and Duluth police departments, the St. Louis County Sheriff's office and the St. Louis County Public Health Department -- and decide how and where the grant money will be spent.

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