AUBURN -- As the anniversary of the Newtown Tragedy approaches, an Auburn elementary school is pushing to increase its security by competing in a nationwide contest.

Pioneer Elementary school is currently fourth in the nation out of 970 schools vying for a $200,000 grant. Three runners up will win $100,000.

We ve had Sandy Hook on our mind, everything after that changed for us, said Debra Gary, school principal.

For weeks, the school has used social media and word-of-mouth to push for more votes.

The contest, put on by Stanley Security-installed products and services, would help the school with a state of the art lockdown system.

There s not really a way to lockdown our campus, said Gary.

According to Gary, Pioneer Elementary was built in 1954 and lacks the protection newer schools have.

If you get a call that an intruder is on the way, be in front of the glass doors and struggle with an antiquated locking system, it s impossible, she said.

Since 2011, Auburn Police has reported four break-ins at Pioneer, which is considered average.

Because of concerns, monthly lockdown drills include staff hiding students in secure places on campus. All 70 staff members are also trained in self-defense.

We love these students we want to protect them, when you love something you protect it, said Marissa Iams, a first grade teacher.

Following the Newtown tragedy, a safety analysis was conducted on all of the Auburn School District s schools, according Superintendent Dr. Kip Herren.

Dr. Herren tells KING 5 the study found Pioneer Elementary School to be safe and that winning the grant money would only make the campus safer.

The budget isn t there, we re not getting money from the state, and I haven t seen any federal money coming in, said Gary.

District officials say a proposed $22 million levy will help improve protection at all schools. If voters pass it in February, some of the money would go towards technology to upgrade safety and security.

Despite 90 percent being on a free and reduced lunch program, students have achieved reading and math scores in the top 1 percent in the state.

By winning the contest, Gary hopes campus safety will soon be top notch too.

Every time a child comes in here my promise is to keep that child safe I want to be able to keep the promise, said Gary.

Another district school, Mt. Baker Middle School, is also in the contest. To vote, go to

People can also text Pioneer, WA to 99222.

The contest ends Friday, December 13.

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