Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Williamsburg’s Helen E. James School to get handheld radios

To tighten up security at the Helen E. James School, the town will be purchasing four handheld radios with funds received from a Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) grant in early December.

According to Emergency Management Director Denise Banister, the grant is applied for every year.

“The guidelines are very specific about what these grants can be used for; luckily the radios fell within those guidelines,” Banister said.

The $2,500 Emergency Management Grant will cover four handheld radios and a base for the Helen E. James School, as well as a GPS tracking system for the police department and a variety of supplies to stock the town’s emergency response trailer.

Principal Stacey Jenkins said that the importance of the radios became clear when school officials, Banister and representatives of the police and fire departments were discussing moving students from the Anne T. Dunphy School into James School while the Dunphy school was being renovated.

Starting this September, all elementary school students have been attending the James School, and will continue to do so until renovations and upgrades at the Dunphy School are completed in 2014.

“There are some challenges around communication within this (Helen E. James) building. Because of its age, there is no intercom system,” Jenkins said.

The radios will be used for communication within the building as well as when students are taken from the school to Meekins Library.

Banister said that the purchase of the radios was suggested long before the tragic school shooting that killed 26 people on Dec 14. at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“These radios are a step up from regular walkie-talkies because they can be programmed to be on the emergency channels,” Banister said. “I think the radios are pretty darned important and that this is a very valid use of the grant.”

— FRAN RYAN

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