By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 31, 2018 | 1:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – As school shootings in Florida, Connecticut, and other places across America remain fresh in the minds of students, teachers, parents, and school leaders, the governor’s office announced last week hundreds of schools across the Commonwealth will get additional funding to help pay for security upgrades.
Governor Ralph Northam announced $6 million in School Security Equipment Grants to protect students and teachers in 102 school divisions and the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. The grants will pay for video monitoring systems, metal detectors, classroom locks, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems, direct communications links between schools and law enforcement agencies, and other security upgrades in 443 schools and other instructional facilities.
“Since its inception in 2013, the school security equipment grant program has funded nearly 2,900 new projects and system upgrades to ensure the safety Virginia students and educators,” said Governor Northam. “These grants are a key component of the Commonwealth’s comprehensive approach to protecting schools.”
The criteria for making the awards — developed by the Virginia Department of Education and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services — give 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.
“Student safety is always the number one priority of the educators and support personnel in our schools,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction and former Chesterfield Schools Superintendent James Lane. “These grants allow schools to purchase the improvements and technology needed to address the findings of annual security audits.”
Locally, many school divisions across Southside Virginia were among those receiving grant funding, including Prince George and Dinwiddie County. According to the Governor’s Office, Prince George Schools will receive $35,696 for security upgrades at Walton Elementary School while Dinwiddie County will receive $99,597 for upgrades at both Dinwiddie Middle and Dinwiddie High School, with the most a school division can under the program being $100,000.
The state notes a local match of 25 percent is required as part of the grant funding, meaning Prince George County would need to provide just under $9,000 and Dinwiddie County would have to contribute nearly $25,000.
According to Dinwiddie County Public Schools’ Director of School and Community Relations Christie Clarke, this year’s grant will be used to “make upgrades to classroom doors at Dinwiddie Middle School and to add enhanced security protection at Dinwiddie High School.”
“This is the fifth consecutive year that Dinwiddie has received this grant,” Clarke said. “By implementing these security measures, we continue to make improvements based on our annual safety audits that will ensure that our facilities protect the health, safety, and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff.”
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.