Wichita schools receive almost $1 million to improve security

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Melissa Seiwert's only option to secure her classroom at Wichita South High School, is to lock it from outside. But that will soon change.

"I think it's a great use of money to help secure students and faculty," she says. "We'd all like to go home at the end of the day safely, so unfortunately, it's needed.

A new lock will soon be installed on her door, along with almost 4,000 others. The new locks have deadbolts, and are designed to give classrooms increased security. 

USD 259 Safety Director Terri Moses, says it's because of the growing number of school shootings and other incidents nationwide.

"One of the pushes is to improve the locking systems, and making it so the doors can be locked from the inside," Moses says.

Kansas lawmakers have set aside close to $5 million for the state's 153 districts to improve safety, but each district has to match the amount given. The Wichita school district received the most money, but it's still short of what it asked for.

Moses says, "We were very happy when we heard that the state of Kansas was going to allocate additional funds for safety measures, and so when the grant application came out, certainly we applied for it.

The grant will pay for eight additional metal detectors, along with 45 portable defibrillators, so each USD 259 building has at least one. The grant will also pay for technology improvements, such as more cameras. 

All schools will get new locks, but not all will get the other improvements. South High and several other schools have already added more defibrillators and cameras, using previous funds.

"I think the money is allowed us to get the resources we need," says South High Principal Cara Ledy. "Safety has always been important, at least at South High School it has been. Everybody in this building is important, and they're valued, and I want them to feel comfortable and feel safe."

The 153 districts applied for grants that totaled $12,979,536, but the state provided $4,994,705. 

Wichita Schools received $922,613, with the highest amount, and Blue Valley Schools received $415,831, with the second highest amount. Others school districts nearby received $139,538 for Andover and $131,961 for Derby.

In addition, the state also allocated $10-million for a new Mental Health Intervention Pilot Program, where Wichita Schools also received the highest amount.