Grant will pay for school security upgrades

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Grayson County receives $50,000 from state to improve safety at five schools

By Staff Reports

INDEPENDENCE — Last week, Gov. Bob McDonnell awarded $6 million in School Security Equipment Grants to improve safety and security for students and teachers in 459 Virginia schools and regional education programs, including Grayson County
The school division was awarded a $50,536 grant to be used at five schools.
The grants will pay for security equipment, including video monitoring systems, metal detectors, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems and communications systems providing direct links between schools and law enforcement agencies.
The grant program was proposed by the governor in February and established by the General Assembly through the passage of the 2013 Appropriation Act and House Bill 2343. The legislation directed the Virginia Public School Authority to issue bonds to fund up to $6 million in competitive grants statewide for the purchase and installation of school security equipment.
School divisions and regional educational programs were invited in June to apply for grants of up to $100,000.
Grayson County Schools Director of Personnel and Operations Judy Greear said the division applied for the grant with the hope of securing $100,000, but school officials are still pleased with the funding they received.
“We are excited,” she said. “We’re glad to get the money and will put it to good use.”
Greear explained that the $50,536 will be divided between Baywood Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Fries School, Grayson County High School and Independence Middle School.
So far, the division has not been told what it would be allowed to buy with the funds, or the amount it could spend on upgrades at each school.
Grayson must provide a local match of 25 percent of the grant amount.
Greear said school officials expect to find out more this week. The Grayson County School Board was scheduled to hold its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening.
“I can think of no more important legislative accomplishment than this investment in the safety and security of our students, teachers, principals and other public school employees,” McDonnell said in a news release. “These grants, and the other important steps we’ve taken this year to improve school security, will make a real difference as we strive to make sure Virginia’s schools remain places where children can learn in safety.”
Additional state funding for school security was one of a series of recommendations made by the governor’s Taskforce on School and Campus Safety. The governor created the blue-ribbon panel in the aftermath of the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 20 students, the school’s principal, two teachers, two aides and a school psychologist.
“We were all deeply moved by the heroism of the educators at Sandy Hook who gave their lives trying to protect their students,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Laura W. Fornash, who co-chaired the task force along with Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel. “There was immediate consensus around the idea of asking our school divisions to assess their needs and providing additional state support for the purchase and installation of security systems and equipment.”
Schools without modern security equipment were given priority, along with older buildings, schools with relatively high numbers of offenses and schools in divisions least able to afford upgrades, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright. “The process also took into account the percentage of students in a division whose safety would be enhanced.”
The 2013 Appropriation Act includes a second round of School Security Equipment Grants next summer. As with the first round announced last week, the grants — not to exceed $6 million statewide — will be awarded on a competitive basis, with school divisions and regional programs eligible to receive up to $100,000.