A $374,545 federal grant will help School District 304 keep students safe during emergencies, the Board of Education learned last week.
The district is one of 102 school districts in the U.S. and one of six in Illinois to receive the Homeland Security Department grant, which will pay for emergency equipment, training and to draw up response plans that include Geneva’s two parochial schools, the fire and police departments, local government agencies and county agencies.
“We’re going to enhance our relationships with emergency responders, which will increase our ability to restore a good learning environment (after an emergency),” explained Amy Campbell, a former Police Department liaison officer at Geneva High School, who will administer the program along with Charles Williams, the district’s intervention coordinator and organizer of the Geneva Coalition for Youth.
Homeland Security has assigned consultant Sandra Ellis to oversee the district’s grant-sponsored activities and report its progress to federal officials.
“I’m passionate about keeping our schools safe,” she said. “The capacity this grant brings you will make your schools and community even safer.”
Once officials have drawn up a detailed response plan that covers the major types of school emergencies—natural disasters, terrorist attacks, violent outbursts and public health threats—teachers and other district employees will take classes to learn their roles in the plan. They also will learn about the National Incidence Management System, on which the district’s plan will be based, Ellis said.
Sometime next spring, the district will stage an emergency preparedness drill, with area residents playing victims and other roles, Williams added. “There will be no children involved. We will make this a community project,” he said.
Board members said they’re glad to get the grant, which was announced on the third anniversary of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Northern Illinois University.
“The anniversary of the NIU shooting makes me realize that going to school today is not like it was when I was in school,” said School Board President Mary Stith. “I’m grateful for this grant and that we have a pretty hands-on board that can make the most of it.”