State Requests Use of Covid Relief Funds to Pay for Public and Private School Security Upgrades

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New Hampshire is seeking to use COVID-19 relief money to continue funding school security and infrastructure upgrades, an effort that is close to running out of state funding. And this time around, the state is proposing to fund private school upgrades, too. 

In a request before the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee meeting this Friday, Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut is asking for the approval of $10.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to continue the four-year-old infrastructure grants program.

“The requested (federal) funds, if eligible, would be specifically applied to projects to improve security in NH K-12 public and non-public schools,” Edelblut wrote.

New Hampshire created its Public School Infrastructure Fund in 2017 to allow for matching grants for telecommunications upgrades, as well as to improve safety and security features in schools. So far, nearly all of that $28.7 million fund has been spent, with 619 security and infrastructure projects approved, according to the department. Less than $1 million remains.

The new funding is expected to provide 250 additional grant awards to schools, ranging from $40,000 to $50,000 each, Edelblut estimated. It is unclear how many grants are expected to go toward private schools in the state. Many of those grants have gone to camera and surveillance systems, door locks, alarm system upgrades, and in some cases, bullet-resistant glass in reception areas, according to expenditure records from February 2021.  

This time, the state is hoping to use some of its remaining ARPA dollars to continue the grants, but target them to school security measures. “These processes are being opened to both public and non-public schools,” Edelblut wrote in the request. 

In addition to ARPA funds, the department also intends to ask the U.S. Department of Education for permission to use money from the CARES Act – an earlier package of pandemic relief – toward school security, according to its request.

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