Schools get security grants

Published 10:29 pm Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oakland Elementary School is one of six elementary schools that will receive security upgrades through a state grant program.

Oakland Elementary School is one of six elementary schools that will receive security upgrades through a state grant program.

Six Suffolk elementary schools will receive entry security systems through a state grant program that awarded the division $72,000.

Booker T. Washington, Elephant’s Fork, Kilby Shores, Mack Benn Jr., Nansemond Parkway and Oakland will receive the “buzz-in” system on the main door as well as a security camera system, Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said.

“We are starting with the elementary schools that have lower visibility from main office to the front doors,” Bradshaw said. Pioneer Elementary already has such a system in place, and the school system aims to install the system at all elementary schools eventually as budget allows, she added.

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The system at Pioneer operates all day long, Bradshaw said.

School resource officers and other staff provide monitoring in secondary schools, Bradshaw said.

The School Security Equipment Grant program was established by the 2013 General Assembly after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“An effort to keep students and staff safe” was the impetus for the grant applications, Bradshaw said. “Across the nation, citizens are asking for increased school security in light of school violence.”

In all, 519 schools and other educational facilities in the state will receive $6 million this year to pay for video monitoring systems, metal detectors, classroom locks, electronic-access controls, visitor identification systems and other security upgrades, according to a press release from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office.

“These grants represent a crucial investment in safeguarding Virginia’s young people and the educators, administrators and support staff dedicated to preparing them for the future,” McAuliffe stated in the release. “A new Virginia economy requires new and innovative solutions, and these school security equipment grants fit the bill.”

The awards — developed by the Virginia Department of Education and the Department of Criminal Justice Services — give priority to schools that are most in need of modern security equipment but are least able to afford the upgrades.

“Virginia students, teachers, administrators, support staff — and the parents and others who visit our schools throughout the school year — are safer today because of this program,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “This program enhances school safety and gives our schools and first responders the tools they need to keep out intruders and respond quickly and effectively if a security threat does arise.”

Other local school divisions also received grant funding through the program. They included $50,843 to Isle of Wight County for Hardy and Westside elementary schools, and $73,415 to Franklin for Franklin High School, Joseph P. King Sr. Middle School and S.P. Morton Elementary School.

The largest grant a school division may receive under the program is $100,000. A local match of 25 percent is required of most divisions.