Grant funding secured by the Fairland Police Department to be matched in part by the Fairland School District will provide nearly $75,000 to the district to help improve school security and safety.

FAIRLAND – Safe and secure schools is an important goal, but this can be costly. With some help, the Fairland School District will add safety measures thanks to a grant award received through the Fairland Police Department from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

Fairland Police Chief Aaron Richardson announced the $55,842 two-year grant award at the Oct. 8 meeting of the Fairland School Board. The grant is provided under the Justice Department's 2018 COPS STOP School Violence: School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP)

“You’re getting some money – and that’s always a good thing,” Richardson told the Fairland School Board members before making the big announcement.

The Fairland School District has pledged matching grant funds of $18,614 toward a total of $74,456 to improve school security and safety.

A professional grant writer used by the City of Fairland, Kim Messer, was employed to write the grant application and pursue the funding.

“She called me one day and said, ‘Hey, there’s this grant, but it’s a matching grant, but it is out there, and they’ve opened it but it’s a real short window,” Richardson said. “She’s been wonderful. We only had a week to 10 days to get all the information, stats and bids and everything we needed.”

Richardson contacted Fairland School Superintendent Mark Alexander who agreed to provide matching funds and working together the district was awarded the substantial grant. Fairland competed for the grant with much larger districts and believed the chances of being awarded the grant were slim, according to Richardson.

“Not only were we surprised we got the grant, but we got fully funded, it’s a 75/25 matching grant, which means 75 percent of it is funded by the federal government,” Richardson said. "Hopefully this will greatly improve school safety in all buildings, and the Police Department is always going to be here to help you, visit with the kids and be here anytime you need.”

Alexander said the district’s $18,614 in matching funds will come from $16,000 the district just received in Impact Aid funding not included in the regular budgeted revenues.

“We have a really good relationship with the City and with the police department. They’re always here for all the things we need and Aaron’s always available at whatever time I call him and we appreciate him for that,” Alexander said.

The growing school district's budget has been stretched to meet the needs of a steadily increasing enrollment and grant funding is vital to updates and improvements to student safety programs and equipment.

“A lot of people like to come to a smaller community, it’s safer, smaller classrooms, more one-on-one instruction with the kids. When you’re a parent that’s important. Fairland has a good reputation of being a good school and now we’re just trying to get ahead and be proactive,” Richardson said.

“It’s a great benefit to us if, heaven forbid, we do have an incident, not just a violence incident, but if we ever have a theft, we would have better capabilities of reviewing video to help us solve crimes,” Richardson said.

The COPS grant funding at Fairland can be used to improve security systems, emergency planning and procedures, closed circuit TV systems, communication radio upgrades, metal detectors, and policy updates, as well as training. The grant could not be used to fund personnel or a School Resource Officer (SRO) position.

Richardson said the funding will aid the district in strengthening their safety plans already in place, and provide additional updated much-needed equipment.

“We appreciate you guys thinking of us,” Alexander said.

Alexander and the Fairland School Board members, Ray Davis, Chuck Stotts, Lavina Cox, Casey Bowers, and Crystal Wyrick thanked Richardson, Messer, Fairland Police Commissioner Lisa Jewett, and Fairland Mayor Charles Mathis and all involved in the project.

“My child goes to school here too, and I want my grandchildren to go to school here. I love Fairland, and I want my son to grow up in a small town like this. I want it to be just like this, very safe,” Jewett said of the City’s support.

“Although the Fairland Police Department is the actual recipient and administrators of the grant, all of the proceeds will go toward specific school safety initiatives that have been identified by school administrators,” Richardson said. “The Fairland Police Department and the Fairland School District have long had a very close working relationship in order to keep our kids safe. We pledge to continue those goals and strive to always improve and find ways to provide a safe environment for our most precious resources, the kid…Anything we can do to help make the kids and the staff safe, we’ll do it.”

“Fairland’s just a great place to live, and getting this grant for our schools that have a reputation for being some of the best in Oklahoma, this is just going to make them better,” Mathis said.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.