Olson says grant proposal will be submitted on Aug. 29, the day the application window opens

    When the grant application window for $25 million worth of school safety grants opens on Aug. 29, Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson says the local district will definitely submit an application for funds.

    “This is a great opportunity for the district,” he told the Times.

    But, Olson is quick to add, as he reads the language in the request for proposals documentation, it appears that merit won’t be the predominant factor determining whether or not a school safety grant is awarded or denied.

    “As I read the grant RFP, there is going to be a high measure of chance involved in these selections,” Olson said. “…Due to the random nature, it does not appear to be a merit-based system other than the categories of when the grant was submitted and if it falls into the high or low priority status as spelled out in the grant RFP.”

    With indications that funding will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis, he said the local application will be submitted on the day the application window opens. All proposals submitted that day will be labeled “first priority” and given a random number to indicate whether they’re from a metro or non-metro district, Olson explained. If there is funding left over after the Aug. 29 applications are reviewed, applications submitted on Aug. 30 will then be considered.

    “So in some ways there is a lottery approach to this process,” he said.

    That’s mostly because it appears the $25 million, which the Minnesota Department of Education expects to divide up into grants this fall for at least 50 schools up to a maximum of $500,000 per grant, won’t be nearly enough to match the number of school districts who will seek funds. According to a St. Paul Pioneer Press story, more than 300 representatives from interested schools participated in a July 24 online conference to learn more about the grant process.

    Legislators in the 2018 session initially hoped to put as much as $50 million in the bonding bill for the school safety initiative, but could only manage $25 million in the bill that was signed into law.
Better PA system at CHS

    Earlier this year, Crookston School Board Chair Frank Fee noted the subpar public address and communications system at Crookston High School, saying that if there was an emergency such as an active shooter at the school, parts of the building wouldn’t even be able to hear alerts over the school’s PA system.

    The grant RFP language indicates that making school entrances more secure and improving schools’ communications systems will be a funding priority of the MDE.

    The funding is expected to be split between the Twin Cities metro area and Greater Minnesota. Grant recipients are expected to be announced on Sept. 28.

    “We are in the process of gathering ideas and pricing these items out so that we are ready to go” by Aug. 29, Olson said.