DCPS among 70 school districts receiving state security grants

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 23, 2019 | 1:45 p.m. 

DINWIDDIE – Dinwiddie County Public Schools is among 70 school divisions set to receive a portion of $6 million in state grant funding to help pay for school security equipment.

According to the governor’s office, the grants will pay for video monitoring systems, voice and video internal communications systems, mass notification systems, visitor-identification systems, access control systems, two-way radios, security vestibules, and other security upgrades. The School Security Equipment Grants program was established by the 2013 General Assembly in the aftermath of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

The criteria of the awards — developed by the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services — gives priority to schools most in need of modern security equipment, schools with relatively high numbers of offenses, schools with equipment needs identified by a school security audit, and schools in divisions least able to afford security upgrades. This year — at the recommendation of Governor Ralph Northam’s Student Safety Workgroup — additional weight was given to applications from elementary schools.

“Virginia’s public schools must be safe learning environments where our children can grow, thrive, and prepare for a lifetime of achievement,” the governor said. “That’s why I asked the 2019 General Assembly to more than double the maximum grant allowed for each school division, and worked with state lawmakers to double the total annual appropriation for this critical program. This funding represents an important investment in the safety and security of our students and teachers in every corner of the Commonwealth.”

Dinwiddie County Public Schools is benefiting from the grant program, with the school district receiving $34,674, with a required 25 percent, or $8,668, local match, bringing the total funding to just over $43,300. According to Christie Clarke, the school district’s spokesperson, four schools were identified for this funding, Dinwiddie Middle School, along with three of the county’s elementary schools, Dinwiddie, Southside and Sutherland.

Funding will be used at the middle school to help pay for a visitor identification badge system, including a scanner and printer for the system, with a similar project taking place at Dinwiddie Elementary as the school implements a new parent pickup system for the school’s car riders. At Southside and Sutherland Elementary, funds will be spent on updating and adding surveillance cameras to each of the school’s existing systems.

These projects were identified as part of annual audits and safety assessments done yearly that look closely at areas where the school division can improve when it comes to security. That information is then used to implement those improvements, along with being included in their budget along with the security grants.

For the school district, these programs are another way for Dinwiddie Schools to help augment their funding sources throughout the year.

“We are always looking for ways to help fund projects in addition to our local budgets,” Clarke said. “We also work collaboratively with the county each year for the School Security Officer and School Resource Officer grants that are funded by the state. Through these grants and support from our local government and Sheriff’s Office, we have been able to increase the security efforts in our schools each year,” noting this year, the school division was able to add two new school security officer positions at the middle and high school to supplement the school resource officers already at each school.

She continued, “We now have School Resource Officers assigned to Dinwiddie High School, Dinwiddie Middle School, Sutherland, and Southside Elementary Schools. The Sheriff has also worked to ensure that the 3 remaining schools – Midway, Dinwiddie, and Sunnyside Elementary Schools – have an officer visit those schools throughout the week.”

According to the governor’s office, the maximum annual award for a school division is now $250,000, compared with $100,000 previously. Next year, the total annual appropriation for the program will double, from $6 million, to $12 million.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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