Students who attend Jackson County Public Schools will soon be more secure thanks to a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant. The district is one of 235 nationwide and only six in North Carolina to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice for funding from the COPS School Violence Prevention Program.
“This is another big step in keeping our students as safe as they can be,” Deputy Superintendent Jake Buchanan said. “Along with our current single point of entry project, we will have multiple layers of security at each school.”
JCPS will receive $420,008 to install electronic locks with access control on 300 classroom doors and implement a new digital radio system that will provide reliable communication even in the most remote areas of the county.
Chief Technology Officer Jeremiah Jackson initiated and managed the application aided by a grant writer funded by Dogwood Health Trust.
“This is a component of a much larger initiative to create safe environments for teaching and learning that support mental health and provide physical security for our students and staff,” Jackson said.
A focus on mental health was a key reason the grant was approved. In 2021, JCPS received a five-year grant from NC Project AWARE to promote student well-being, healthy behaviors, and interventions in order to address mental health problems before they occur. In addition, county commissioners committed resources for more school social workers, nurses, and counselors.
“We believe students learn best when they feel safe and supported,” Jackson said. “The COPS grant for physical security and the Project AWARE grant for mental health enables us to provide environments where students can feel safe and focus on learning.”
The COPS grant requires 25% local matching funds which will come from the county budget that already includes allotments for capital needs including security.
“We were also happy to include the letters of support we received from the county manager, emergency management director, The Catamount School, sheriff’s office, and Southwestern Community College,” Jackson said.
The COPS grant is good for three years, but the district hopes to complete the project in two years and use the third year for maintenance.