August 16, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer
By Carol Britton Meyer
Hingham was recently awarded a $56,980 state grant for security enhancements in its public schools, which came as good news to school administrators and others involved in the effort to help ensure that our schoolchildren are safe.
"I’m very pleased with the award for new door-locking hardware that will enhance security and safety within our buildings," Hingham Public Schools Director of Business and Support Services John Ferris told the Hingham Anchor. "This new hardware will simplify door locking, in a code-compliant manner, in the event of a real threat to our students and staff at the High School, Middle School and South Elementary School."
Ferris explained that many investigative reports have stressed the need for easy locking of doors without fumbling with a key, and that the grant actually provided additional “extra points” (in consideration of award) for requests that involved door-locking hardware.
Hingham's townwide Security Program Committee -- which includes representatives from the schools, the Hingham Police Department, and the Hingham Fire Department -- has been meeting frequently to address security issues and protocols at schools and across the town, according to Ferris.
"This grant required collaboration and sign-offs among the school, police, and fire departments in order to quality for up to $80,000 of grant funding for fiscal year 2020, so Hingham was well-positioned to apply for the grant," he said.
Hingham's grant application contained more than $187,000 in requested initiatives, including the door locks, but since the funds are divided among different communities, Ferris, Police Chief Glenn Olsson, and Fire Chief Steve Murphy are pleased to receive even partial funding. "$57,000 is a good start," Ferris said.
Murphy credited Ferris for authoring the grant request, which was then reviewed and signed by both chiefs. "I am excited that the town received this award," Murphy said. "The committee has been meeting regularly for the past two to three years to discuss and make improvements to school safety. Our goal has been and always will be to provide a safe learning environment for Hingham children."
State Senator Patrick O'Connor told the Hingham Anchor he is appreciative of the fact that local communities have this kind of partnership at the state level. "With the tragedies that have occurred in some schools around the country, our schools need to be as equipped as possible. This kind of grant provides financial resources to help local communities to be as safe and secure as they can be and to help ensure that every student in our schools remains in a safe learning environment."
Olsson agreed. "The committee constantly reviews townwide security policies, and applying for this grant was part of that effort," he said. "This grant will help decrease some of the town's capital outlay requests, which helps the taxpayers," he said.
The committee's work will continue, Ferris said, "and we will in the future request funding for other important initiatives through the town’s capital appropriation process and other security funding opportunities as they may become available."
State Representative Joan Meschino, who represents Hingham among other communities, said she's grateful for this award because in part, it helps provide "a safe, supportive, and comfortable school environment, which is critical to students' ability to learn."