Lee school district awarded funds from DOE
Lee County was one of 108 school districts nationwide awarded $26 million Monday from the U.S. Department of Education to improve emergency management plans.
The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools, or REMS, discretionary grant program awarded Lee County a total of $457,004 to address disaster prevention mitigation, response, preparedness and recovery.
“The safety of our kids is our number one priority,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, in a prepared statement. “In order for children to learn, they have to feel safe. It’s our responsibility to help schools create safe learning environments for students.”
Only two other school districts in Florida — Lake and Polk counties — were also benefactors of the REMS grant, which lasts 18 months.
Terri Kinsey, grants development coordinator for the local district, said Lee County applied April 14 for the highly competitive grant.
“These funds are going to provide professional development for school and administrative folks, and coordination with our local emergency and law enforcement agencies,” she said.
Lee County submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education demonstrating a potential need or vulnerability.
Kinsey said the district has not completed a full-scale vulnerability assessment since 2004 and since that time new schools have been opened.
Vulnerability assessments help local law enforcement officials and a school’s individual “safety team” to formulate a plan for hurricanes, a school fire or a shooter on campus.
Schools also need to implement the federal government’s National Incident Management System, created in 2003 by President George Bush, as a guide for agencies and government offices.
“This system provides a consistent approach for these governmental agencies and how we would work together in dealing with an incident regardless of its size,” said Kinsey.
The grant funds are being doled out to the district’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
In return for the grant, schools need to coordinate with law enforcement and emergency personnel, conduct drills, purchase emergency supplies and train staff, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Even though the grant ends in 18 months, Kinsey said district staff will continue to receive training in order to build Lee County’s emergency preparedness.
“The purpose of this program is to fine tune our security, safety needs and prepare us in the event of an emergency,” she said. “But to build capacity in our organization so after the grant period ends, we build in trainers inside the district who can continue to train folks in future years.”