The halls of Milton High School and Milton Middle School are about to get safer once the district receives $45,000 in school security grants.

The schools were each awarded $22,500 to install new PA systems, part of the Vt. Department of Public Safety’s grant program announced in August. Milton and the 239 other successful schools were notified last Wednesday.

The state did not approve Milton’s third grant application for an exterior camera surveillance system on the elementary/middle school building.

In June, the district’s schools were three of 261 statewide to apply for the safety grants, a $5 million program passed as part of the budget adjustment bill this past legislative session. The measure received “overwhelming bipartisan support,” according to Gov. Phil Scott’s office.

“The only thing our kids should have to worry about in school is whether or not they’ve completed their homework or prepared enough for the big test,” Rep. Alice Emmons (D- Springfield) said of the program.

The security work has already begun in Milton, facilities director Bruce Cheeseman said. Installing the new PA systems will take about 30 days but will not interfere with the start of the school year on August 29, he said. It will cost around $30,000 per school.

MTSD’s 25 percent match to the grant funds will come from the buildings and grounds budget in the general fund, business manager Don Johnson said.

The new PAs will increase the number of locations announcements can be made and will ensure they’re heard in all parts of the school. Previously, they were not audible in locations such as the gymnasium and could only be made from the principals’ offices. 

With the updates, teachers will be able to make announcements throughout the school from the phones located in each classroom, Cheeseman said.

“If somebody sees something that’s out of the ordinary or somebody just wants to lay caution about something, there’ll be no delays in getting messages out,” he said. “That is the biggest thing: no delays whatsoever.”

The district had originally budgeted for the new PA systems to be installed in fiscal year 2020 and the exterior camera system at MEMS in FY21, according to Johnson. But Cheeseman said he believes the grants will now allow the district to install the camera system this year. Johnson agreed.

“We’ll most likely end up doing the cameras this year as well, perhaps over future school breaks or when the weather was nicer,” Johnson said. “But there would be work to be done first – bidding and board approval.”

Cheeseman said it will be “fantastic” to update the announcement system and end delays in communication around the schools.

“We take anything serious,” he said. “To some people it could be the littlest trivial thing, but to us and the faculty, they have to be aware of anything and everything that’s going on.”