Douglas County commissioners offered local schools a combined $10 million to heighten security after a school shooting rocked the community in May, and interest from local schools was so high demand for the money is outweighing supply.
The nearly three dozen requests for grant dollars asked for more money than what is up for grabs, a spokesperson for Douglas County confirmed to Colorado Community Media. The specific amount requested was not released.
It remains unclear which schools in the county are seeking the money, for what specific purposes and in what amount. Also unclear is when or how Douglas County will divide the available funds among schools or if it will find additional funding sources for the requests. There is no deadline by which commissioners must award the money.
"Our greatest hope was to stand with all Douglas County schools in support of physical school safety and mental health for students," Commissioner Abe Laydon said in a statement. "There is nothing more valuable to us than a healthier, safer learning environment for students, teachers and administrators — and ultimately safer communities for all those we serve."
The county denied a public records request submitted by Colorado Community Media for the applications, citing the competitive grant process and the desire to protect “specialized security details” within the documents.
A spokeswoman confirmed the county received 34 applications and believes approximately 90% of all public, private and charter schools are represented in the applicant pool.
The Douglas County School District submitted one application that entailed requests for its dozens of neighborhood schools. The rest of the applications came individually from charter and private schools.
A spokeswoman for the Douglas County School District also confirmed the school district applied, requesting physical security and mental health resources.
Superintendent Thomas Tucker said the district applied for both types of funding because each are vital in school security. Making children feel safe by securing buildings improves their mental state, he said, adding building security was named a priority in student surveys.
"We understand to address social emotional learning and mental health, it must be a multi-pronged process," Tucker said. "It can't be either or."
Commissioners offered the one-time funds in response to the May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. The tragedy left 18-year-old senior Kendrick Castillo dead and eight other students injured. A spokeswoman for STEM confirmed the school applied for grant dollars.
Schools had until Sept. 17 to apply for a share of the money. The deadline fell exactly one week prior to the next court appearance for one of the shooting suspects, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, whose preliminary hearing is Sept. 24.
Erickson and co-defendant Alec McKinney, 16, were arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack at STEM. The incident spurred weeks of community debate over school safety and prompted commissioners to find the $10 million within the budget to aid schools.
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