The deadline to request funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has been extended to January 31, 2021.
This funding is particularly critical for K-12 schools and higher education institutions, many of whom can leverage CARES Act funds to bolster their security measures and take additional steps to ensure the health and safety of their students, faculty, staff and parents.
Continue reading for insights on the CARES Act funds available to educational institutions, as well as how schools can utilize them to upgrade their security, or download our white paper for additional information.
CARES Act Funding for K-12: Public, Private, Parochial and Charter Schools
There are two distinct sections of the CARES Act for public, private, parochial and charter K-12 schools. The first portion is called GEER, or the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. These funds are available for personnel, training, distance learning and any other administrative costs related to the reopening of schools. Many schools have utilized these funds to set up their virtual academies of learning or online learning for their student population.
The second portion of the CARES Act is called ESSER, or the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. This portion is to be utilized for equipment and processes aligned with each school district’s plan to reopen, and stay open, while safeguarding the health and welfare of students, staff and visitors. The funds are awarded in the same proportion as each state receives funds under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The allocations are from the federal government to each state through their Department of Education.
This funding is available to all federal Title I schools, meaning that private, parochial and charter schools all qualify. However, the application must be made through local educational agencies (LEAs) in each area. Each state identifies an LEA differently – some legislate by region, others by county or city. Be sure to check with your individual state to seek out your LEA.
Any unused funds revert directly back to each individual state’s general funds, meaning that if it is unused, it is lost.
School districts, private schools, parochial schools and charter schools all have an opportunity to access this funding to enhance the safety and security of their buildings not only to address challenges brought on by the global pandemic, but to promote a safer, healthier environment for their student and staff population well into the future.
The following life safety and security solutions can qualify under this granting mechanism:
- Advanced screening, including human temperature screening
- Interoperable communications
- Access control
- Visitor management
- Video management
- and more
Each district has the ability to utilize these funds for projects that normally couldn’t be funded, or would take in some cases many years to complete. The CARES Act, specifically the ESSER Fund, provides districts with flexibility, as the law provides a list of permissible uses for the funds as well as a catch-all allowed use for “other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies”.
This allows the local district the ability to direct funding where they see necessary to help keep schools safe and secure for the foreseeable future.
CARES Act Funding for Higher Education
Section 18004 of the CARES Act directly addresses grant monies that are available to institutions of higher learning, meaning that two- and four-year colleges and universities, technical schools, medical technician schools, beauty academies and other federally accredited institutions all have allocations assigned based upon their enrollment.
There is an overall allocation directed toward the institutions, with half of the allocation allowable for administrative costs, student assistance and distance learning. The other half is for appliances and supplies that allow those institutions to safeguard students, staff and visitors as they return to campus, and to keep them safe while complying with the restrictions and guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Since these funds are emergency relief funds, institutions can bypass the normal bidding process and direct funding to projects that are related to maintaining the institution’s operations.
Access control, advanced screening, visitor management, video surveillance, video management and other life safety and security applications – to the extent their addition is related to COVID-19 – are security and safety measures that these funds may be used for.
The act and its related rules are flexibly written and thus provide each individual institution with the ability to decide for themselves the best way in which to utilize the funds to support creating a safer, healthier environment for their students, faculty, staff and visitors.
The most beneficial byproduct of this act is that institutions can positively impact the safety and security of their campus environments without impacting the ever tightening of their budgets.
5 Ways Schools Can Use CARES Act Funds to Enhance Safety and Security
Many security solutions and systems qualify for funding under the CARES Act, allowing schools to bypass traditional processes and budget challenges that often become roadblocks to security enhancements.
Below are five ways schools can leverage CARES Act funding to create a safer, healthier environment.
1. Access Control and Video Surveillance
Prior to the pandemic, school cafeterias, libraries, student unions, gyms, staff and faculty break rooms, and other common areas were often bustling with activity. Now, however, schools have tightened access to areas that promote large gatherings, and many are using access control systems to enforce these measures. With more restricted areas comes the need for more video surveillance to ensure the school can monitor for breaches in access or criminal behavior taking place in these closed-off areas.
Additionally, remote security management has become critical in monitoring school security when students, staff and faculty may not be on-site. Cloud-based security systems, such as cloud access control and cloud video surveillance, enable schools to easily manage their systems remotely.
2. Occupancy Tracking
In some cases, large areas – such as lecture halls, auditoriums and student centers, for example – must remain open to the student body, albeit at reduced capacity. It may not always be possible to manually track occupancy in real time, which is why automated occupancy management solutions are gaining in popularity among organizations, including schools.
These systems use 3-D sensors to count people entering and exiting an area, and allow schools to adjust the maximum occupancy count as regulations change. Display monitors show how many people are in a given area and can deny access when the established occupancy threshold is reached.
3. Health Screening
In addition to instituting a regular cadence of required COVID-19 testing – specially to identify asymptomatic carriers – many schools have implemented symptom screening systems to ensure students, staff and faculty are healthy before stepping foot on-site. One of the easiest symptoms to detect is elevated skin temperature. Nowadays, there’s a broad range of human temperature screening solutions that help organizations do this, whether manually or via an automated screening device.
Some of these devices can also integrate with the school’s other systems, such as access control, to provide a more comprehensive solution that reinforces the school’s policies or procedures with regard to handling individuals with a temperature beyond the defined threshold. While these solutions can’t diagnose COVID-19 or any other medical disease or virus, they can help schools more effectively screen individuals coming in and allow them to take action.
4. Advanced Student & Visitor Management
Entrances to schools now require more security in order to enhance the safety of students, staff and visitors. As such, visitor management systems are rising in popularity. Instead of pen and paper logbooks for visitors, contractors or vendors, these systems allow schools to screen individuals and produce visitor badges without manual management from school staff. This not only improves the check-in process and provides more visibility into those who are on-site, but it also helps reduce person-to-person contact and can minimize the risk of exposure.
5. Interoperable Communications
The CDC recommended that schools participate with local authorities in broader community response efforts. One way to do this is to implement an interoperable communications platform that allows K-12 and higher education schools to seamlessly connect with law enforcement, hospitals, government agencies and other educational institutions to collaborate in real time.
These stakeholders can share voice communications, cellular communications, data and video all on a single, secure platform, meaning there are fewer delays in communication and fewer barriers to a rapid response in the event of an emergency. With access to timely information and data, schools can gain greater situational awareness and better communicate both internally and externally.
Learn more about using federal funding to enhance your safety and security program. Click the button below to contact us today.
To download our white paper, “Understanding the CARES Act: What Schools Need to Know”, click the button below.