Guilderland police and schools get $346K in federal funds to enhance safety 

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Marie Wiles, superintendent of the Guilderland schools, said she was surprised and delighted on Friday to learn that the district in partnership with the Guilderland Police Department has been awarded $345,994 in federal funds to improve emergency communication.

GUILDERLAND — “The news that came out of the blue today was just tremendous,” said Guilderland’s superintendent of schools, Marie Wiles, on Friday evening.

She was referring to a $345,994 award that will improve emergency-response radio technology throughout the district’s seven school buildings.

The Guilderland schools had just completed four days of remote learning with students starting at new schools this year coming in for orientation.

“All that went beautifully. It was so wonderful to have students in the schools again,” said Wiles.

In-person classes will start on Monday.

In administering the ever-changing plans to reopen in the midst of the pandemic, Wiles said, she had forgotten about the grant application. “It was a big surprise today,” she said.

The Guilderland Police Department had applied for the first round, said Wiles. “Not many are funded nationwide; we weren’t funded,” she said.

Wiles said the awards are partly based on need so she wasn’t confident that the resubmission would bring results.

Deputy Chief Curtis Cox, who handles public information for the Guilderland Police Department, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Currently, some places in Guilderland’s five elementary schools, middle school, and high school have “dead spots” for communication, said Wiles.

The money will be used to upgrade radio communication for all seven buildings. 

“It will help us out in an emergency,” said Wiles. “It’s about safety and security and the ability for first responders to communicate anywhere within our buildings.”

This includes communicating with police, emergency medical services, and firefighters.

The award is part of the COPS (Community Oriented Police Services) School Violence Prevention Program, which announced 160 awards totaling $50 million for school safety initiatives across the country.

Congressman Paul Tonko pushed for the award in an April 3 letter to Phil Keith, director of COPS at the federal Department of Justice.

The Guilderland Police Department, Tonko wrote, “recently participated in the Albany County radio interoperability project led by the Albany County Sheriff’s Department. All emergency services agencies within the county were provided with mobile and portable radios operating on a digital P25 800mhz trunking system. However, the system does not include operability inside buildings.”

To solve this problem, Tonko wrote, the Guilderland Police Department in partnership with the school district proposed installing a distributed antenna system, known as DAS, that would operate among school buildings, school buses, and the police department, “expediting response in the event of an emergency.”

In announcing the award on Friday, Tonko said in a statement, “While this school year has already presented greater challenges than any before it, we must remain vigilant and continue working to ensure the safety of our Capital Region students, teachers, and staff. Strengthening emergency coordination resources at our local schools will improve the speed and responsiveness of our dedicated first responders to be where we need them at a moment’s notice.”

More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.