LAKEWOOD, Ohio — As with almost any school in the state, Lakewood High School could use some security upgrades starting with large floor-to-ceiling glass windows, windows the district had been eyeing putting a ballistic film on to better protect them against bullets or other objects.
"Additionally throughout the district, we have doors that become unlocked in classrooms when students come in and out of them. So what that causes a teacher to do is have to go back out and lock the door each time," said Lakewood Schools Superintendent Maggie Niedzwiecki.
The district would like to fix them, they'd also like to purchase a signal booster to address areas of the building where school resource officers have poor or no reception on their radios. They were literally trying to figure in what budget year could they afford the money to do them.
"Nobody ever wants to do that if those are things that have been identified and we want to ensure that our defense to any shooter that could happen or any event that could happen at our schools we want to do it immediately," she said.
Thanks to the state, they now can accomplish these upgrades as Governor Mike DeWine announced in a visit Thursday.
"Lakewood will receive $1 million to improve the safety and security of all of their K-12 school buildings," he said.
At the high school, DeWine announced that more than 900 additional schools will receive state funding support for physical safety and security upgrades as part of the latest round of Ohio's K-12 School Safety Grant Program.
Lakewood High School is one of 945 schools that will receive a combined $68 million in grants as part of the fourth round of the program. A fifth round of funding will be announced in the coming weeks.
A total of $112 million was allocated for the fourth and fifth rounds of the grant program by the Ohio General Assembly as part of House Bill 45, which was signed by Governor DeWine last month. The investment more than doubles the initial allotment of $105 million for the program provided by Ohio's operating budget and the American Rescue Plan Act.
"When we created the K-12 School Safety Grant Program, we expected that the need for funding would far exceed the amount of money available, but I vowed to go back to the legislature and ask for more," said DeWine. "Now, with the generous support of the Ohio General Assembly, I'm proud to announce that every single qualifying school that applied for a grant will receive funding."
So far, a total of $173 million has been awarded to 2,374 Ohio K-12 schools to help pay for physical security expenses such as new security cameras, public address systems, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems and exterior lighting. Eligible schools could receive as much as $100,000 per building.
$22.3 million of that money so far has gone to more than 100 public schools, private schools and public school districts in Cuyahoga County alone. Cleveland schools, which had already received $4 million dollars, received an additional $3.2 million Thursday.
"This means that every qualifying school that applied for funding but did not get it will now receive a grant for the upgrades needed to make their schools safer."
The Lakewood money gives the ability to make safety improvements that the Lakewood Police Chief Kevin Kaucheck said buys them something in return in a crisis.
"It buys us time so we can get on scene and take care of whatever we need to take care of," he said.