Grant funds allow CASMAN Academy to upgrade security

MANISTEE — CASMAN Academy social studies teacher Bill Kinnunen remembers with great clarity the moment he realized their building was in need of a public address system update for security reasons.

CASMAN Academy was the recipient of a $25,004 Michigan State Police/Michigan Department of Education Competitive School Safety Grant The grant allowed them the opportunity to install a new lock system and public address system for safety reasons.

Kinnunen said he was sitting in a classroom other than his own when the eye-opening experience took place during a lockdown drill.

“I was in the lab and the speaker didn’t work, so when a police officer opened the door of that room we had no clue that the lockdown was going on,” he said. “It is vital in today’s world to get notified of those things.”

Since that time CASMAN Academy was the recipient of a $25,004 Michigan State Police/Michigan Department of Education Competitive School Safety Grant that allowed officials to upgrade the public address system in the building and soon to add more secure door locks.

CASMAN was one of 114 public schools, 42 non-public schools, 22 charter schools and 10 intermediate school districts/regional education services that received a total of $25 million in grants from the Competitive School Safety Grant Program.

CASMAN Academy director Shelly VanVoorst said they were very grateful to receive the grant funding.

“The public address system is actually installed now and we can hear in all of the rooms,” said VanVoorst. “The grant was very needed and it was something we were going to have to look at replacing no matter what because of the issues we were having in this building with it. What is nice to know is we don’t have to take this cost out of our bottom line. Now, we can take the funds we were going to use for this and put it toward fixing something else in the building.”

VanVoorst said they now can not only can hear the announcements, but teachers and students get a warning sound when one is coming.

“When an announcement is made and there is a tone that sounds first to notify the people,” said VanVoorst.

Teacher Kimberly Evans said the tone is important as it makes them stop talking and listen.

“That gives us the opportunity to pause as we are teaching as before when an announcement was made we would often miss it because we didn’t know it was coming,” said Evans.

VanVoorst said the consistency across the building with the public address system is what makes it safer for everyone. That is especially true if there was an incident where they needed to quickly notify the entire school.

“It’s nice that it is loud and clear so everyone can hear it,” said VanVoorst. “Before some rooms worked and others didn’t. Some were quiet, while others were loud and we even had some that were scratchy and all you heard was static.”

However, Kinnunen pointed out the new system also helps in other areas.

“I never knew when buses were coming to pick up the kids as my room speaker would be off and on and was very inconsistent, so the kids would miss the bus sometimes,” he said.

VanVoorst said the lock upgrade that is being purchased with the grant funds will also make a difference.

“Right now we are just the old-school lock and keys,” she said. “Sometimes the keys work and other times they don’t and that usually means calling in a locksmith to fix them and it’s getting harder to find a locksmith as they are getting far and few between.”

She said the new locks will be by card entry and, more importantly, the technology will allow them to track who is entering or leaving the building and at what times.

“The Manistee Intermediate School District Technology Department will program those cards for us,” she said.

The grant is something VanVoorst said fits in perfectly with the school’s plan for the upcoming year.

“Our board is looking at ways to improve the building and this is checking off two of the things that were at the top of our list,” she said. “The board can now look in other areas like the roof to make sure we aren’t going to have any ice dams that cause leaks. After that, work down to the windows and boiler and things of that nature rather than focusing on safety items.”


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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