Historically, Public Address Systems have been the backbone of school communications – from bell schedules to fire alarms. And in recent years, with increasing needs for lockdown systems and now the emergence of COVID-19, PA systems assume yet another integral role in school safety. It is this role which qualifies them for both ESSER funding and DOJ grants.
ESSER In Review
In 2020 and 2021, Congress passed a series of three stimulus bills that provided Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to schools to address the impact COVID-19 had on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.
Schools are given flexibility in how best to use the funds, but the funding goals are primarily focused on addressing learning loss and providing a safe environment for students and staff.
How PA Systems Align with ESSER Funding Goals
One lesser-known application for ESSER Funds is the installation and enhancement of Public Address Systems. These mass communication systems ensure a safe environment for students and staff by providing visual and auditory mass notification for:
- Social distancing guidelines
- Handwashing reminders
- Masking requirements
- COVID exposure alerts
- Infected area alerts
PA systems also provide immediate solutions for making schedule and system changes from both on and off-campus (remotely), thereby reducing transmission risk and enabling enhanced COVID response coordination.
Additional ESSER-Aligned Technology Solutions
- Touchless access control
- Temperature screening and notification
- Air quality/HVAC upgrades, ventilation, measurements and notifications
- Contact tracing
- Video integration to provide “live view” of key areas for entrance screening, masking, and social distancing
Other Potential Grants
There are two federal grants that are relevant to public address systems. These grants were created through the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018. Among its provisions, the SSV Act authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to manage grant programs including:
- COPS School Violence Prevention Program: Managed through DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
- STOP School Violence Program: Managed through Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
Goals for these grants are:
- Help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools
- Support school violence prevention efforts
- Provide training to school personnel and students
- Implement evidence-based threat assessments
The SSV Act is guaranteed to fund at least $75M cumulatively through 2028. Applications must be submitted by a state, unit of local government, or its public agencies (public school systems, public boards of education, police departments, sheriff’s departments or Indian tribes).
Schools can find additional grants through SchoolSafety.gov – a clearinghouse of school safety resources provided by the Federal Commission on School Safety.
Real World Examples: Telecor VuAlert
One tangible example of how CM3 deploys Public Address Systems to enhance health and safety is the Telecor VuAlert. This digital display communicates COVID-related messages, routine announcements, emergency alerts, and synchronized time.
- Includes 22-inch, high-definition screens with full-color HD graphics and text.
- Accompanying software enables the displays to be highlycustomized, allowing individual messages to be displayed on targeted screens.
- Beyond social distancing, handwashing and masking reminders, the display shows events, activities, daily lunch menus, news, and local weather information.