Pueblo County School District 70 has been awarded nearly $1.1 million in grant funds by the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), which will be used to upgrade emergency communications systems in several schools.
Pueblo D70 was one of seven school districts in Colorado to receive funds through the 2022 School Access for Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program, and its award will be used to upgrade existing emergency communication systems at 16 of 22 schools within the district.
Since 2008, the district has used a public safety network of two-way radios for communication between district staff and emergency responders. Once upgraded systems are placed into buildings, SAFER funds also will support a training in crisis program for district staff and emergency responders.
Schools receiving upgrades to communication systems in Pueblo D70 are to be announced in the future, according to spokesperson Lynnette Bonfiglio.
Funding from the grant will allow us to install an updated and robust multichannel, school-safe, interoperable communication system that bridge three different radio systems together for use on our school campuses, then a wide area coverage for our districtwide security operations and certainly our regionwide emergency responder operations directly through the 911 system,” Bonfiglio said.
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SAFER was enacted by the Colorado General Assembly in 2018 through Senate Bill 18-158 and appropriates funding for communication technology to school districts and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) to improve school security.
Generating grant monies from the Colorado public school fund, SAFER was established as a six-year program, meaning it will be implemented through Colorado’s 2023-24 fiscal year, according to the Colorado General Assembly.
Nearly $4.86 million was allocated to the SAFER program this year. Pueblo D70 and Widefield School District 3 in Colorado Springs were the only districts with SAFER awards exceeding $1 million this year, according to the Colorado DHSEM.
Other school districts receiving funds include Elizabeth School District, 27J Schools, Weld County School District 6, Alamosa School District and Moffat Consolidated School District No. 2. Two BOCES, Northeast Colorado BOCES and San Juan BOCES, also received funds, according to Colorado DHSEM.
All funds awarded by the SAFER grant may only be used for the purchase, installation and maintenance of communication technology, in addition to communication training.
This is the first year Pueblo D70 has received funding through SAFER and the district will be eligible to apply for funding in 2023, Bonfiglio said.
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Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com