Brentwood school district officials will use about $1.3 million in federal grant money to enhance student safety, including software and hardware that keep track of high school students and the installation of exterior lighting in parking lots.
The money will allow the district to offer a mix of programs and enhancements, such as funding for after-school activities and training for teachers and staff on violence and drug prevention, Superintendent Richard Loeschner said in an interview Friday.
In addition, the district will install a monitoring system for its 4,700 high school students where students will swipe in at the start of the school day with their identification badges. That way, district officials can confirm they are students of the school and also monitor their entry into the building.
Other plans for the funds include an after-school program for parents and students as well as workshops for students throughout the district.
"What our hope is always that all of these programs have an impact on kids," Loeschner said.
The Brentwood district, one of four receiving these funds, is getting the largest grant on the Island, $1,252,164, under the content area of safe and healthy students.
School officials also are set to receive another $500,000 from the state for after-school programs, such as My Brother’s Keeper, Girls Inc. and Friendship Club for the Brentwood district to help prevent the rising recruitment by gangs such as MS-13, according to the office of state Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood).
Loeschner said that such grants enable the district to offer more.
“It is virtually impossible for us to expand programs or do capital improvements because the 2 percent tax cap and relying on state and federal aid limits our resources," he said.
The district receives its federal funds Sept. 1, and many of the programs and upgrades will be put in place soon after, Loeschner said.
Federal and local authorities have arrested and deported hundreds of suspected MS-13 members since four young men were killed in the woods behind a Central Islip soccer field last year. Suffolk police, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have increased their presence in Central Islip, Brentwood and other Long Island communities where MS-13 is active. State and county leaders have poured millions of dollars into social services and gang-intervention programs aimed at eliminating MS-13’s potential recruits.
Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, were students at Brentwood High School in September 2016 when they were killed, allegedly by MS-13 gang members. Six alleged gang members have been indicted on federal charges in the slayings.
Brentwood was one of four Long Island school districts among 38 statewide that were awarded more than $28 million in federal grant money to boost student achievement and provide safe schools. The others were Amityville, Mattituck-Cutchogue and Valley Stream 30, announced by state Education Department officials in June.
"These grants provide flexible funding to districts, so they can decide where the money can best be used,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa at the time.
The Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, newly authorized under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, were designed to help build state and local capacity to improve academic achievement, state educators said. The state Education Department awarded the federal funds after reviewing proposals by districts.
The other districts in the group had reported several uses for their grant money. Mattituck-Cutchogue officials will use it to enhance their world languages curriculum, Amityville will use their funds to fully support college and career readiness, and Valley Stream 30's school system will increase access to personalized learning experiences supported by technology.
Grant funding runs through September 2019.