State grants to beef up school security

Published 10:53 pm Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Suffolk Public Schools says it will use state funds approved by the General Assembly in response to last year’s deadly Newtown shooting to beef up security measures at all but three district public schools.

The district will receive $100,000, the limit for each school division, after fulfilling a 25-percent local match requirement with $25,000, school spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw stated.

A further $67,958 in local funds will increase the security infrastructure project’s total cost to $187,958, according to Bradshaw.

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Each of the district’s 12 elementary schools will receive $2,200, and each of its middle schools $4,400, to replace outdated portable radios.

At Lakeland High School, $56,000 in grant money will defray a $143,958 project to replace the surveillance system.

“(The) surveillance system at King’s Fork High is currently being upgraded with local funds,” Bradshaw stated. “The system at Nansemond River High is the next priority for upgrade.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed the School Security Equipment Grant program in February. The General Assembly approved the program when it passed the 2013 Appropriation Act and H.B. 2343, authorizing a bond issuance by the Virginia Public School Authority to fund the matching grants.

“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 stated in his announcement of the grants.

“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.”

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December claimed the lives of 20 children, 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,” Secretary of Education Laura W. Fornash stated. Fornash, Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel co-chaired the governor’s Taskforce on School and Campus Safety, which suggested the grants.

“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,” Fornash added.

A total of 86 school divisions received grants, benefiting 459 schools and educational facilities, according to a news release.

A second round of grants set for next summer will also be limited to $100,000 per division and have the same local-match requirement.