Local schools get state security grants

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2020

All three Franklin schools and some in Suffolk and the counties of Southampton, Isle of Wight and Surry were among the 489 recipients of $12 million in school security grants the Virginia Department of Education announced Dec. 4.

The grants will pay for video monitoring systems, voice and video internal communications systems, school bus interior cameras, mass notification systems, visitor-identification systems, access control systems, two-way radios, security vestibules and other security upgrades.

Franklin City Public Schools received $100,000 for S.P. Morton Elementary School, J.P. King Jr. Middle School and Franklin High School. Southampton County Public Schools received $2,560 for Southampton Middle School. Isle of Wight County Schools received $151,389 for Smithfield High School, Smithfield Middle School and Windsor High School. Surry County Public Schools received $23,372 for Surry Elementary School. Suffolk Public Schools received $116,000 for Forest Glen Middle School.

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“The safety of our students is always our top priority,” Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said. “This funding from the state will help ensure that we are continuing to provide our students and staff with a secure learning environment.”

The Isle of Wight grant will be used for security improvements at Smithfield High School, Windsor High School and Smithfield Middle School. The grant will pay for door access controls, which will restrict access to users with an IWCS employee badge.

“This year, we have doubled the amount of assistance available to help Virginia school divisions protect our students and the educators, administrators, and staff dedicated to preparing them for success,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “We remain focused on supporting students and their families in navigating the pandemic and preparing for in-person learning to resume, which includes ensuring that our schools have all the necessary technology, equipment, and systems to keep everyone safe and to respond to emergencies.”

The 2019 Appropriation Act approved by the General Assembly doubled the total annual appropriation for the grant program — effective this year — from $6 million, to $12 million. The 2019 General Assembly also approved the governor’s proposal to increase the maximum award per school division — effective last year—from $100,000, to $250,000.

“Virginia is a national leader in school security and the grants announced today support our proactive approach to creating and maintaining safe learning environments,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “In many cases, the equipment and systems divisions will purchase with these funds address vulnerabilities identified through the commonwealth’s pioneering school security audit program.”

The criteria for making the awards — developed by VDOE and the Virginia 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.

A local match of 25% is required of most divisions.

The School Security Equipment Grants program was established by the 2013 General Assembly in the aftermath of the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.