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Area schools land safety grants

BEMIDJI—Three school districts in the Bemidji area—but not Bemidji Area Schools—are set to receive more than $800,000 in one-time grants from the state for safety improvements.

Cass Lake-Bena Schools, Bagley School District and Red Lake School District were among 90 Minnesota school districts awarded funding to beef up their security, the Minnesota Department of Education announced Monday.

Hundreds of districts across the state submitted plans to upgrade entrance and communication systems at their school buildings, and the state randomly selected 123 of those projects to receive chunks of the $25 million in one-time funding it received from the Legislature.

In Bagley, that means $43,000 to add a second set of secure doors at Bagley High School, $36,000 for an app that staff can use on to initiate a lockdown themselves on their phone or computer and $59,000 for a bi-directional amplifier to boost emergency responders' radio signals in the high school complex.

Cass Lake-Bena staff plan to spend their $343,000 from the state on as-yet-undetermined communications upgrades at the middle school, a new middle school entrance design that'll divert visitors into a secure reception area before they can enter the building proper, a new access control system, and adding a new locking mechanism to the doors that connect the district's middle and high schools.

And in Red Lake, it means $317,000 to add a "sally port"-style entrance at Ponemah Elementary School and another $12,000 to upgrade communications systems.

Bemidji Area Schools wasn't one of the districts whose submitted plans were selected in the random drawing.

Staff at the Department of Education said they received a total of 1,187 complete applications that requested a total of $255.5 million. Districts could ask for up to $500,000 per building.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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