School districts throughout the U.S. are launching initiatives to keep students safe in classrooms. Millions of dollars are being spent but, relief is not coming quickly enough for most parents, students, teachers, and administrators. Campus comfort is hard to find currently.

Teachers and administrators are focused on security, threats, incident attempts, cybersecurity breaches, and other potential hazards but still there is angst. Officials also are struggling to deal with other pressing issues. Some parents are reluctant to send their sons and daughters into classrooms on school campuses. Numerous teachers, administrators, and others have left their jobs and replacements are being sought. Stress is the reason most give for leaving their positions.

Even school employees who work off-campus have resigned their jobs. The Houston School District is paying signing bonuses of $2,000 to bus drivers as the district tries to fill vacated positions. One Pennsylvania school district is offering a $4,000 signing bonus and increasing driver’s pay to $30 an hour plus an extra $6 an hour as an incentive.

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The Los Angeles School District last week was hit with a costly cyberbreach. State leaders were immediately and painfully reminded that schools are prime targets for cyberbreaches because network security is weak and outdated on most campuses. More technology funding will likely be available to prevent cyber beaches because the networks are also the backbone of most campus security systems. There are other reasons as well and one involves cyber insurance which is critical because of the cost of a cyber breach. The cost of this type of insurance has spiraled and cyber insurance is no longer available to some schools.

Ohio state leaders are currently distributing $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to local school districts for the purchase of security cameras, automatic door locks, and access control equipment. In Massachusetts, the governor’s recent supplemental budget request includes $40 million for critical school safety projects. In many states, armed security guards have been placed on campuses and numerous school districts now allow teachers to bring guns into their classrooms.

Conversations are ongoing about whether Congress will allocate additional federal funding to increase school security. Earlier federal bills provided funding for school technology modernization. However, some of that funding is still on hold in governor’s offices.

State leaders in Indiana are investing millions in school safety. Funding will be made available to school administrators for the implementation of various types of new security equipment. Event warning systems, cameras, inoperability technology, and other types of safety equipment will be in high demand.

The Texas governor has announced that the state will invest millions in funding for bullet-resistant shields for officers. This specific type of safety equipment was requested by the governor after 19 students and 2 teachers were killed by a lone gunman in Uvalde, Texas recently. It remains to be seen if the state will make additional funding available for other types of security upgrades.

The state of Pennsylvania’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year includes $200 million for new school safety initiatives. As demand for camera systems, alert systems, technology, and physical security increases, private sector firms are available to provide assistance. But, these firms are already in high demand… and the demand will increase significantly and quickly.

A $363 million bond election will fund projects for critical safety and technology upgrades on school campuses in Guilford County, North Carolina. Many of the projects are being planned and will launch in 2023. Initial plans call for security cameras at a cost of approximately $1.6 million. Another $6 million will be allocated for locking systems and alert technology that is interoperable with first responders.

Officials in Loudon County, Virginia will enhance school security with projects at a cost of approximately $38.1 million. The funding will include multiple additions to Park View High School and the nearby alternative campus, William Obediah Robey High School. Project elements have been identified and purchases will be consolidated into a single initiative. Another Loudon County security project carries a cost estimate of $14.5 million for new technology. The school district is requesting that amount in the upcoming state budget for upgraded intrusion detection systems and exterior door electronic access locks for all campuses.

School administrators in Seattle have announced a large project focused on the Alki Elementary School campus. Costs are estimated at $67 million. An existing facility will be removed and replaced with a multi-story building that features innovative security vestibules at each entry point. The vestibules will control individuals who enter and/or exit the facility.

The Humble public school system in Harris County, Texas plans to spend $45 million on safety enhancement efforts. Projects will include the implementation of technology improvements, upgrades to network infrastructure, cyber security software, a new camera system, and upgraded emergency radio equipment. The district’s board of education also approved $2 million for ballistic shields and bulletproof vests for campus security officers.

In San Antonio, a recent bond was passed that provides the Northside Independent School System $18 million for security upgrades. Funded projects will include access control upgrades for 19 sites along with new surveillance cameras. The upgraded surveillance network will be enhanced by another $2.3 million upgrade to the video server that connects all surveillance feeds within the data centers. Another $5.4 million is allocated for fire alarm system replacements at 11 different schools in the district.

More funding announcements are expected throughout the year. Some will be allocated by legislative actions and many more communities will ask voters to approve funding for school safety efforts in upcoming bond elections.

It would be extremely difficult to find any school district that does not have plans to increase security currently. Most are eager to purchase equipment and get security upgrades completed as quickly as possible. Private sector companies that can provide assistance are in high demand throughout the U.S. Increasing school safety is a national goal and collaboration between public and private sector partners is the quickest way to accomplish the goal.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.