Douglas County School District Superintendent Thomas Tucker says the district will apply for a portion of $10 million in school safety funds being offered to local schools by the county.
Tucker and the school board discussed the issue at the school board's Aug. 20 meeting. It was unclear prior to then if the district would pursue the security money.
“We're definitely going to apply, we're definitely going to meet the deadline, and we definitely can use those resources in our schools,” Tucker said, adding the funds will complement dollars provided by a district mill levy override and bond measure passed in November.
Commissioners in May offered $10 million in one-time money to heighten security in local schools. The board made the offer in response to a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch earlier that month. Funds can be spent on mental health programs and the physical security of schools. Schools have until Sept. 17 to apply.
Assistant Superintendent Ted Knight said the district plans to use the money, if granted by commissioners, for a number of mental health resources.
That could include school climate surveys that ask students about school culture, social and emotional learning curriculums, training for staff in crisis response and suicide prevention.
Knight did not divulge what physical security measure the district would pursue with the money, citing security concerns.
“I won't go into a lot of details on those, but they are again kind of our traditional building hardening, communication and training for folks,” Knight said.
Commissioners announced in August county schools — neighborhood, charter and private — could submit applications to access the funds, which gives commissioners final say over how the money is spent.
The school district did not immediately move to enter the application pool.
DCSD officials feared participating would expose sensitive details of school security. Applications will be submitted online, and could be subject to open records requests.
DCSD will prepare a single application for the entire district, rather than making multiple applications for individual schools, and submit the application in the form of an intergovernmental agreement, Tucker said Aug. 20.
School board President David Ray proposed using an intergovernmental agreement in early August, which would allow the county and school district to negotiate specific security plans through their attorneys.
“I'm grateful that (commissioners) understood our concerns about the application process as being way too visible to the wrong people,” Ray said Aug. 20.
Charter schools, although part of the school district, will prepare and submit their own applications. Private schools can also apply for the funds individually.
Tucker, when asked by board directors, could not say how commissioners will distribute funds, only that they have final say over which schools' applications are accepted.
Director Kevin Leung, who represents District E, asked if commissioners would consider the number of students in public schools versus private schools when determining how much money is given to the district compared to private institutions.
“We can apply but we have no say in whether we'll get a dime or a million or $10 million,” Leung said.
Tucker said he hoped to have more clarity on how funds will be dispersed in the coming weeks but assured board members the district will meet Douglas County's deadline.
“The money from the county commissioners is greatly needed,” Tucker said.
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