CATAWISSA RR - Southern Columbia Area and Shamokin Area school districts were awarded $25,000 each from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)'s Safe School Targeted Grant to establish and implement programs to prevent and reduce incidents of violence.

While officials from Shamokin were unable to be reached Wednesday, Southern Columbia Area Superintendent Paul Caputo said the money will be used to install card readers on the doors near the elementary playground and a video camera system inside the elementary building.

"In addition to helping monitor student behavior, the cameras will provide the local police and fire departments with access to real time video of activity within the building, allowing them to quickly plan appropriate responses to any emergency situation occurring within the school," Caputo said.

PDE awarded $2.6 million in competitive grants to 110 public schools, including $13,190 to Warrior Run and $25,000 to Danville Area.

"It's a nice shot in the arm," Caputo said. "It was a project we wanted to do, but we were limited by finances. This enables two big pieces for our security."

The camera system is priced at approximately $17,000 and the card readers are priced at approximately $8,000.

The camera system is expandable up to 128 cameras, and the old camera system in the high school can eventually be added to it, Caputo said.

"We can increase over the years in the elementary, middle and high schools," he said.

An action item to accept the grant will be on Monday night's school board meeting agenda.

If the school board approves it, the district will solicit quotes and have vendors inspect the school for best possible placement of the equipment, Caputo said.

The money must be spent by June 30, he added.

The focus of the grant program, according to a PDE media release on Feb. 21, is to assist schools by reducing unnecessary student disciplinary actions and promoting an environment of greater productivity, safety and learning; providing professional development to staff using research-based violence prevention and classroom management programs, and enhancing anti-violence efforts between schools and parents, local governments, law enforcement and community organizations.

Schools were eligible to receive up to $25,000, with the following programs considered for funding: conflict resolution or dispute management, school-wide positive behavior support, school-based diversion programs, classroom management, research-based violence prevention programs that address risk factors to reduce incidents of problem behaviors among students, training for Student Assistance Program team members and staff training in the use of positive behavior supports, de-escalation techniques and appropriate responses to student behavior that may require immediate intervention.