Funding for upgrades in school security systems and equipment

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Several area school divisions are getting some funding for school security equipment.

On Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam announced $6 million in School Security Equipment Grants to help protect students and teachers in 340 schools across the Commonwealth.

According to a release, these grants will pay for video monitoring systems, voice and video internal communications systems, mass notification systems, visitor-identification systems, access control systems, two-way radios, security vestibules, and other upgrades to school security systems.

"Virginia's public schools must be safe learning environments where our children can grow, thrive and prepare for a lifetime of achievement," said Northam. "That's why I asked the 2019 General Assembly to more than double the maximum grant allowed for each school division and worked with state lawmakers to double the total annual appropriation for this critical project. This funding represents an important investment in the safety and security of our students and teachers in every corner of the Commonwealth."

The Virginia Departments of Education and Criminal Justice Services developed the criteria for making these awards, giving priority to schools most in need of modern security equipment, schools with relatively high numbers of offenses, schools with equipment needs that have been identified by a school security audit, and schools in divisions that are the least able to afford security upgrades.

This year, Northam's Student Safety Workgroup suggested additional attention be paid to elementary schools.

Previously, the maximum award for a school division was $100,000, but now the maximum annual award is $250,000. And the total annual appropriation for the program will increase from $6 million to $12 million next year.

"On behalf of my colleagues in schools across the Commonwealth, I thank Governor Northam and the General Assembly for their leadership in providing our schools with additional resources to protect students and their teachers from potential threats, and to respond effectively to emergency situations," said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. "In many cases, the School Security Equipment Grant Program provides funds for divisions and schools to address specific vulnerabilities identified during annual school security audits."

Locally, Madison County is getting the largest chunk of money at $163,891, which will be used for security improvements at Madison County High, William H. Wetsel Middle, and Waveryly Yowell Elementary schools.

Orange County is getting $77,940 to use at Locust Grove Middle Schools and the Taylor Alternative Education Complex Feeding Site.

Tye River Elementary School in Nelson County is getting the largest amount for a single school at $64,203.

In Albemarle County, $27,777 is going to Mary Carr Greer Elementary School, and in Charlottesville, Jackson-Via and Johnson elementary schools are splitting $26,924.

There are 70 school divisions across Virginia that are getting some of this funding.

Most of the school divisions must also provide a 25 percent local match, though three with composite indices of local-ability-to-pay of less than 0.2 do not. Those divisions are Buena Vista, Lee County, and Scott County.

The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton is also exempt from the local-match requirement.

The release says the School Security Equipment Grants program was created by the 2013 General Assembly in the aftermath of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

When that shooting occurred, there was some confusion due to there being a Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley.

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