The East Hampton School District took the lead about a year ago to apply for a state grant for radio upgrades on behalf of all schools in the town, and has received word it will receive $125,000 to share among those districts.
J.P. Foster, the school board president, who works as the chief emergency dispatcher for East Hampton Village, said in an interview the idea “came from my job side of things.” It’s a parallel effort, he explained, to a multimillion-dollar initiative by towns and villages here to collectively upgrade their radio communications systems.
“We’ve had some lockout situations and some other things that have happened over the years” in the schools, Mr. Foster said. “The phone systems get taxed, and we can’t really rely on cell service. We can’t rely on phones because it’s too cumbersome from a labor and systems technology standpoint.”
Few specifics about the new system have been publicly discussed, as officials are often protective of information about school security. But Mr. Foster did say the new systems “will allow for more capability and expansion” of radio communications, and will allow school officials to more easily contact first responders and other districts.
“I think it’s a much-needed link,” he said.
Jerel Cokley, East Hampton’s assistant superintendent for business, said the $125,000 grant would be shared among his district and Springs, Wainscott, Montauk, Amagansett, and Sag Harbor schools.
“We will all, by way of this grant, be able to buy one-time hardware items to support emergency communications equipment so that there would be real-time communication from all of these districts,” Mr. Cokley said.
He said the superintendents would decide among themselves how much each school gets. “It will be fair and equitable, with an agreement that if there is any extra money, the entire group will decide to do with it.”
School boards in the other districts have begun adopting resolutions to participate in the initiative.
“That’s pretty impressive that East Hampton stepped up to do this grant,” David Eagan, the president of the Wainscott School Board, said during a meeting on Aug. 21.
At an Aug. 19 meeting, Debra Winter, the Springs School’s superintendent, called it “a long-awaited grant” that will allow her district to get a repeater and some additional radios.