Leveraging AB-841 Grant Funding for Safer and More Secure Schools

by | Jun 8, 2021 | Public Security Solutions, School Safety

In September 2020, California’s Governor Newsom signed AB-841 into law. This created a grant program for schools to pay for systems that would allow students to return to safer schools.

The grant monies allocated from AB-841 to each district vary based on several criteria, including disadvantaged or low-income community status as well as proximity to freeways and industrial sites.

The grant is focused on new and retrofits for these functions:

HVAC

Air Quality Monitoring

Ionization & Filtration

Energy Efficiencies

Electric Charging Stations

These funds will be administered in 2021 by the California Energy Commission.

Once the district receives the grant, the number-one priority is to choose the right partner, technology, and services that will provide the best system. Clearly, the result of good district planning and vendor partnership to leverage AB-841 monies should yield safer schools.

 

But, what if you could leverage this amazing momentum and also address campus security at the same time and with the same monies?

You can.

Let’s focus exclusively on Air Quality Monitoring or Air Quality Indexing (AQI). AB-841 grant funding will help districts pay for the systems and projects associated with AQI, including particulate monitoring, and CO2 (carbon dioxide) monitoring. It’s important to understand what’s involved to use the funds that they have been allocated for in order to achieve meaningful results.

A simple Google search for these types of “solutions” will yield an assortment of options ranging from reputable manufacturers to fly-by-night companies whose number-one goal is to chase money and not protect children.

The Challenge

Even though there’s a new source of funding for school districts, it doesn’t address other debilitating issues, such as staffing shortages and procurement hurdles. The result is that districts often lack the resources to effectively investigate, design, procure, build, and then sustain these systems.

Unfortunately, instead of finding a partner that can address some of these hurdles, some districts have chosen less advanced products and technology that leads to worsening their existing staffing issues. When instead, there is a solution that is centrally monitored, managed, programmed, and powered that alleviates ongoing staffing challenges.

What’s that mean?

Districts purchase pallets of sensors which are eventually installed by overburdened staff or vendors that don’t specialize in safety and security, such as HVAC contractors. These sensors can’t be managed centrally and they offer no alerting (other than disruptive chirping in the classroom). They have no integration with communication systems, such as paging, and may even require periodic battery replacement.

The AB-841 funding empowers districts to create stronger, better, lasting solutions that don’t burden staff.

 

Here are some pertinent facts:

Schools need to buy CO2 and/or AQI sensors.

These sensors need to be installed – which means people are climbing ladders and running cables.

HVAC or general contractors aren’t specialists in safety and security.

Districts have no reliable way to know when they have an air quality condition unless the sensors have a way to be centrally monitored with alerting capabilities.

Not all conditions will be the same, so thresholds may need to be set differently from site to site and district to district. This requires centralized management.

More noise in a classroom is a disruption to learning. No one wants teachers to interrupt their class in order to call someone when there’s a chirping noise.

The takeaway from the above list is that districts have to spend the time to install sensors. You already have to install this technology, so why not demand more from the partner you are choosing for the funding allocation?

    Districts have to buy the sensors.

    Districts have to pay people to install them.

    With those two requirements in mind, let’s take advantage of this momentum and demand that these activities give districts more than just noise makers in classrooms.

    Demanding More So That You Get More

    What if the sensors were…

    Managed centrally?

    Monitoring for other helpful parameters?

    Contributing to other district goals such as anti-bullying and substance abuse?

    Integrated with district paging, access control, and surveillance systems to help automate a meaningful response to monitored conditions?

    That’s exactly what should happen with the right product and partner. Sensor solutions such as HALO do just that. These sensors tirelessly monitor for five primary categories:

    Environmental:

    Temperature, Humidity, Barometric Pressure, Tampering

    Light:

    Occupancy, Light Level, Device Covering, Building Efficiency

    Chemical:

    Ammonia, Carbon Monoxide, CO2, Nitrogen Dioxide, VOCs

    Air Quality:

    Vape, THC, Masking Attempts, Particulates (PM 1, 2.5, 10), AQI

    Audio:

    Aggression, Abnormal Noise Level, Gunshot, Keyword (Panic)

    Imagine a solution where the sensors that districts are required to buy and install for CO2 monitoring can also perform all of these other services. 

    With the same easy effort level for installing a basic sensor and the same monies, you can get a better device that delivers these critical outcomes:

    Your district can enable school administrators to combat vaping and other substance abuse with pinpoint accuracy.

    Administrators can actively monitor and manage all sensors throughout the entire district.

    Administrators can be alerted when aggressive behavior is occurring which immediately contributes to safer campus environments.

    Administrators can be alerted when aggressive behavior is occurring which immediately contributes to safer campus environments.

    Alerts to air quality thresholds could automate responses, such as email notifications and strategically placed alarms.

    Gunshot detection could automatically kick off lockdown procedures with existing security systems and paging systems.

    With solutions like HALO, districts have a chance to contribute to school safety and security in a more compelling way than ever before and do so using grant funding through AB-841. The alternative is to boil down this amazing opportunity to just an order of pallets of sensors and check off a required box.

    ICU would be honored to help your district make this happen to ensure your students are safe. As one of the only security integration specialists in California exclusively focused on K12, we know how hard it is to run your schools and find excellent partners. Give us a call – you’ll be glad you did.

    About the Author

    Team ICU

    ICU Technologies is a GSA Schedule 84, and CMAS Contract Vendor for Local, State, and Federal Governments Public Safety and Security Solutions.

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