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Regional school divisions lock up security grants

Seven school districts in the Fredericksburg region were awarded state-funded school security grants this week and are now looking for local matching funds.

The grants, which locally top $555,000, will pay for security equipment, including video monitoring systems, metal detectors, electronic-access controls, visitor identification systems and communications systems.

The grant was established through the School Security Equipment Grant program, introduced earlier this year by Gov. Bob McDonnell and established through the General Assembly’s 2013 Appropriation Act. The money is contingent upon a 25 percent matching grant from each locality.

Six-million dollars in competitive grants were issued statewide through the program to 459 Virginia schools and education programs including the counties of Culpeper, Fauquier, King George, Louisa, Orange, Stafford and Westmoreland.

School divisions began applying for grants of up to $100,000 in June.

A second round of security grants will be offered next summer. Like the first round, the grant totals are not to exceed $6 million and will be awarded on a competitive basis. The program will last five years.

“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 press release about 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.”

CULPEPER

Culpeper County schools received over $70,000 from the state to update security systems at four schools. If the county provides the required match, A.G. Richardson, Farmington, Pearl Sample and Sycamore elementary schools will all receive security updates.

FAUQUIER

Fauquier County Schools received over $40,000 from the state to purchase surveillance systems for two of its older schools: Taylor Middle and Warrenton Middle schools.

Karen Parkinson, coordinator of information for the division, said though the school system is improving security at all of its schools, these two have the largest need for improved surveillance.

Taylor Middle was built in 1952, and Warrenton Middle was built in 1934.

She said their layouts, especially in Warrenton Middle, require a digital video camera at the main entrance.

The matching local grant required by the state is covered by funds in the school’s current security budget, she said.

KING GEORGE

King George County schools was awarded the full $100,000 grant, to be spent on security software, access cards for employees, card readers for entrances and exits, locks, wiring, other hardware and installation at King George Middle and Potomac Elementary schools.

Superintendent Robert Benson said he will ask the Board of Supervisors for the matching $25,000 at a meeting in the next month.

He also hopes to provide security upgrades for King George and Sealston elementary schools. For those improvements, Benson is seeking an additional $125,000 in Capital Improvement Projects funds.

He also hopes to apply for a security equipment grant during the cycle next summer.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Dale Sisson Jr., said he would support giving the schools the $25,000 match.

“If that’s the terms of the grant, that’s still a good deal for the county,” he said.

If the supervisors can’t come up with another $125,000 to fund the full amount of security needs, Sisson said he believes the county can get plenty with the initial amount the state and county will put up. “I think there’s still things of value you can do with $125,000.”

LOUISA

Louisa County schools are hoping to use their grant to start securing the two oldest schools in the district: Trevilians Elementary and Louisa County Middle School.

Spokesman Greg Dorazio said the district is excited about the opportunity to add an extra layer of security. The grant will partially pay for a card-key access system, as well as one that locks down the schools if an intruder alarm sounds.

The lock system will allow any teacher’s key to lock interior doors from the inside. The wireless access readers will allow personnel to instantaneously change access rights for specific keys, should they present a security concern.

This technology is being built into the two schools under construction, Thomas Jefferson Elementary and Louisa County High School, and is in use at the newest building, Moss–Nuckols Elementary.

Currently, all doors are kept locked through the school day, and all school buildings have recently been outfitted with security doors and buzzer systems.

“However, due to the expense of the technology, the [grant] funding will not cover the entire project at either Trevilians Elementary or Louisa County Middle School,” Dorazio said. “We expect to re-apply for funds to complete these projects, and to add the same level of security at Jouett Elementary School.”

Louisa is currently reviewing the security budget and will attempt to fund the match there.

“At this time, we hope to avoid a supplemental appropriation request,” he said.

ORANGE

Orange County schools will use their funds—topping $75,000—to improve security at seven facilities.

Director of Student Services Gene Katulka said the district will install security locks and cameras at each of the schools that grant money has been received for.

The Taylor Education Administration Complex in Orange, which houses the county’s Head Start program, will receive a public-address system, as well as the security locks and cameras.

Katulka said the matching local funds were found in carry-over money from the last budget cycle. He said an official request to use those funds is in the works.

The district will apply for another grant next year to provide structural changes to Gordon Barbour Elementary, Orange Elementary and Unionville Elementary that will connect the kindergarten buildings to the rest of the school.

STAFFORD

Stafford County schools also received the highest possible grant allocation: $100,000.

The funds will allow the district to purchase a video monitoring system that the Stafford Sheriff’s Office can tap into, spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim said.

The upgrades are part of Stafford’s three-phased security project.

Work at the high schools was completed during last school year. Middle schools are currently being worked on and will benefit most from the security grant.

Elementary schools will be completed as part of the final phase as funds become available.

The work is projected to be finished no later than the end of the 2014–15 school year.

The district budgeted for the matching grant before the state-funded portion was awarded.

WESTMORELAND

The four schools in Westmoreland County—excluding Colonial Beach—were awarded over $60,000.

Superintendent Rebecca Lowry said that she and co-applicant James Cook, assistant superintendent for personnel, operations and pupil services, were “thrilled” about the news.

“We applied for $80,000 based on our needs, but are happy to receive most of that money,” Lowry said. “We want to have our schools be safe.”

Cook said that based on a safety audit conducted earlier this year, improvements will include upgrading surveillance systems at all four schools and increasing line-of-sight in front offices.

Staff writers Dawnthea Price and Amy Flowers Umble contributed to this report.

LOCAL GRANT AMOUNTS

CULPEPER

State-funded grant: $73,462 for A.G. Richardson, Farmington, Pearl Sample and Sycamore elementary schools

Local match: $18,365

Status of local funding: Not available

FAUQUIER

State-funded grant: $42,846 for Taylor Middle and Warrenton Middle

Local match: $10,711

Status of local funding: Funded

KING GEORGE

State-funded grant: $100,000 for King George Middle and Potomac Elementary

Local match: $25,000

Status of local funding: Pending

LOUISA

State-funded grant: $100,000 for Louisa County Middle and Trevilians Elementary

Local match: $25,000

Status of local funding: Pending

ORANGE

State-funded grant: $75,876 for Gordon Barbour Elementary, Lightfoot Elementary, Orange County High, Orange Elementary, Prospect Heights Middle, Taylor Education Administration Complex and Unionville Elementary

Local match: $18,969

Status of local funding: Funded

STAFFORD

State-funded grant: $100,000 for Andrew G. Wright Middle, Dixon–Smith Middle, Edward E. Drew Middle, H.H. Poole Middle, Rodney E. Thompson Middle, Shirley C. Heim Middle, Stafford Middle and T. Benton Gayle Middle

Local match: $25,000

Status of local funding: Funded

WESTMORELAND

State-funded grant: $63,248 for Cople Elementary, Montross Middle, Washington & Lee High and Washington District Elementary

Local match: $15,812

Status of local funding: Pending

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

 

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