More than $125,000 in state grant money is coming to Ogle County to upgrade and enhance school security.
It's part of $25 million being distributed to 448 elementary and secondary school districts, community colleges, and state universities in the Illinois Emergency Management Agency's (IEMA) School and Campus Safety Grant Program.
The grants will help fund more than 1,300 projects, including vestibules – secure waiting areas – being created in many local schools.
Other projects include reinforced doors, shatter-resistant glass, locks, and other security measures, a news release said.
Among the local recipients, Oregon is getting $37,450, Polo $16,175, the Ogle County Educational Cooperative $600, Eswood Elementary $5,000, Rochelle Elementary $43,540, and Rochelle High School $22,445.
Oregon plans to create secure vestibules at each of its three schools.
Superintendent Tom Mahoney said the grant money will offset the cost of building improvements being done this summer.
The heightened security measures are part of a $7.5 million in Health & Life Safety projects approved by the school board last fall.
The majority of the Health & Life Safety work — an estimated $7.1 million — will be for the new heating and cooling system.
Included in the rest are more security cameras at various school entrances, repairs to the doors of the band room at Oregon High School, additional electrical outlets and upgrades to transformers at OHS and Oregon Elementary School, removing and replacing existing phone cables, and adding air-conditioning in six server rooms.
Polo will use its grant money to upgrade the locks on classroom doors in all three buildings.
"We're going to install two-way Columbine locks on all of the interior doors," Superintendent Chris Rademacher said.
The district has already installed new exterior locks and cameras at the doors and implemented a buzz-in system for anyone entering the buildings.
If vestibules seems to be the new school safety buzzword, there's a reason: measures that make school entrances as secure as possible were the focus of these grants.
That's because studies have shown that keeping dangerous intruders out of the schools, or at least slowing them down as much and as soon as possible, giving staff time to react, provides the best return on the money, said Patti Thompson, with Illinois Office of Communication and Information.
As IEMA Jonathon Monken said in the release, “Our top priority for funding was to help schools establish a baseline security capability through such measures as reinforced doors, shatter-resistant glass and physical locks at primary public entrances. These are the types of security enhancements experts say can buy valuable time for schools to implement emergency plans.”
Kathleen Schultz at Sauk Valley Media contributed to this story.