Westmont Hilltop School Board officials are now seeking funds to enhance safety and security throughout the school district.

On Thursday, the board approved the administration’s submission of the Act 44 Grant application for both meritorious and competitive funds.

As a result of submitting for the meritorious funds, the district will receive $35,000 in funding to be used for the implementation of a visitor management system, integration of a mass notification/emergency operations system, and the purchase of surveillance cameras for the high school.

Submitting for the competitive funds will allow the district to compete for $130,000 in funding to be used for the implementation of a school resource officer to service districtwide, and internal access control doors at the elementary and high school to limit visitor access during and outside of school hours.

“What we are looking to do is develop a continuous improvement plan for the safety and security of our schools,” said board President Jeffrey Masterson, following the board meeting. “Act 44, at this point and time, represents the best method to go forward with that.

“That being said, it is in two stages,” he said. “One is sort of a given, that’s the $35,000 that we are going to be receiving. We already know that is going to come. The other is a competitive grant, and we’re not sure if we are going to get the money, but it never hurts to at least try.”

According to Masterson, the board will decide what additional safety measures should be implemented based on the total amount of grant funding received.

Westmont Hilltop School Board member Kamal Gella said the safety of the district’s students and staff is of utmost importance, and that he hopes to gain the support of state representatives.

“We would like our state reps to support Westmont Hilltop School District to get the competitive $130,000 grant, because it is very important to improve the safety in the school district,” Gella said.

Westmont Hilltop is one of two local school districts to recently receive additional funding to enhance the safety within its district.

The Westmont Hilltop and Ferndale Area school districts were each awarded Safe School Targeted Grants funding of approximately $24,000 to apply toward the purchase of safety and school-related equipment, state Rep. Frank Burns announced on Thursday.

The competitive 2019-2020 Safe Schools Targeted Grants provided from the state Department of Education are awarded to schools to prevent and reduce violent incidents, purchase safety and security-related equipment, and provide for the training and compensation of school resource and police officers.

“These are wise investments of state dollars to ensure our school students – and teachers – are safe,” Burns said. “It’s no secret that students perform better in school when they feel safe and secure, and these state funds will help our schools meet the goal of providing a safe learning environment.”

Ferndale Area School District received $24,800 and Westmont Hilltop School District received $24,610.

The funding is part of the $7.3 million in School Safety Grants the Pennsylvania Department of Education is awarding to both public school districts and nonpublic schools throughout the commonwealth.

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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