The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Dr. Mark Church
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Franklin County schools will receive $75,760 in School Security Equipment Grant money to be used for improvements to safety and security for students and teachers.
The money is part of $6 million in grants awarded by Gov. Bob McDonnell to 86 Virginia school divisions and 459 schools and regional education programs.
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.
"We are very grateful to receive this grant," said Dr. Mark Church, superintendent of Franklin County schools. "It helps a lot in terms of funding upgrades to security in Franklin County schools."
Plans for Franklin County schools include a buzzer system for the high school, enhanced cameras inside and outside the school's buildings and a notification system.
"The notification system will allow us to alert students and staff who may be on the track or outside the buildings of safety concerns or even of an impending storm approaching the area," said Church.
Money received from the Franklin County Board of Supervisors and money from the school system's capital fund will also help with paying for the upgrades, Church said.
The School Security Equipment 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, which was sponsored by Del. Beverly J. Sherwood (R-Winchester).
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.
In June, school divisions and regional educational programs were invited to apply for grants of up to $100,000.
"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. "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 funding for school security was one of a series of recommendations made by the governor's Taskforce on School and Campus Safety. McDonnell created the blue-ribbon panel in the aftermath of the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
"We were all deeply moved by the heroism of the educators at Sandy Hook who gave their lives trying to protect their students," said Secretary of Education Laura W. Fornash, who, along with Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel, co-chair the task force. "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 currently without modern security equipment, older buildings, schools with a high number of offenses and school divisions least able to afford upgrades were given priority when awards were being made, 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," said Wright.
Under HB 2343, school divisions awarded grants today must provide a local match of 25 percent of the grant amount.
A second round of grants is included in the 2013 Appropriation Act next summer. As with the first round, 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. The same local-match requirement will also apply to School Security Equipment Grants awarded in 2014.