NewsletterAll we need is your e-mail address, and we’ll send you the TodaysWirelessWorld.com e-mail newsletter each month for free.
Digital two-way radios can be integral to developing a high-tech school communication network that helps teachers and principals send for help at the first sign of trouble. The challenge, of course, is how to pay for new technologies.
It’s rare for taxpayers to foot the entire cost of a communications network upgrade, so savvy school districts often go scouting for grants that can help close the funding gap. For instance, schools in Westport, Connecticut, recently approved spending nearly $750,000 to upgrade its communication system and landed state grants that cut the upgrade’s net cost to around $600,000. Similarly, a district in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, scored a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security to help pay for new radios for schools.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security often funds grants that find their way to local districts. (See Grants Pay for Two-Way Radios to Improve School Safety). The key to securing these grants is to find out all you can about the grant requirements and give yourself plenty of time to prepare your application.
A quick look at grant sources
While safety grants are common, there may be many more opportunities to land grants to pay for two-way radio systems. Frankly the number of school grants available is so vast that it’s difficult to know where to start. A few thoughts on narrowing your choices:
Keep in mind that government agencies and nonprofit foundations are not the only sources of grant funding. Local corporations often support schools — contact the philanthropy offices of companies based nearby and have them send you their grant information.
Points to keep in mind if you’re upgrading
Radios built for business and institutional uses have long operating lives, providing they don’t get run over by a school bus. Districts that have trusted analog radios for years often want to dip a toe in the water of digital technology but don’t want to abandon technology that still works well for them.
Dealers and manufacturers of digital two-way radios have anticipated this concern by developing hybrids. For instance, Vertex Standard’s EVX-530 line of digital radios operates in both digital and analog modes so customers can add new digital models at their own pace without having to worry about replacing the entire fleet.
Digital two-way radios convert voice signals into packets of digital data that can be transported on Internet Protocol, or IP, networks. That means digital radios can take advantage of a school’s existing wireless network. Digital radios can send and receive texts, and they can be programmed to perform tasks like locking doors by pushing a single button.
Encryption is another advantage of digital radios. Administrators and teachers can communicate securely without worrying about outsiders listening in, which is vital to the privacy of children.
Innovation is the key to securing grants
It’s not enough to think your school would be better off with new two-way radios. You have to demonstrate to grant providers that you have thought through your needs and are applying imaginative solutions to complex challenges.
Private companies often fund pilot programs using technology in unexpected ways. If your feel like your staff has found a clever way to use radios that most people don’t know about, you may have a leg up on the competition.