County schools receive security equipment grant

Published 11:34 am Saturday, October 20, 2018

Southampton County Public Schools was one of 102 school divisions to receive a School Security Equipment Grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia on Oct. 4. Gov. Ralph Northam announced that day that a total of $6 million in grants had been awarded statewide this school year, of which Southampton received $96,265.

The grants will pay for video monitoring systems, metal detectors, classroom locks, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems, direct communications links between schools and law enforcement agencies, and other security upgrades in 443 schools and other instructional facilities. Southampton’s grant will be used to fund upgrades at Meherrin Elementary, Nottoway Elementary and Southampton High School.

“Since its inception in 2013, the school security equipment grant program has funded nearly 2,900 new projects and system upgrades to ensure the safety Virginia students and educators,” Northam said. “These grants are a key component of the Commonwealth’s comprehensive approach to protecting schools.”

The criteria for making the awards — developed by the Virginia Department of Education and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services — give priority to schools most in need of modern security equipment, schools with relatively high numbers of offenses, schools with equipment needs identified by a school security audit, and schools in divisions least able to afford security upgrades.

“Student safety is always the number one priority of the educators and support personnel in our schools,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “These grants allow schools to purchase the improvements and technology needed to address the findings of annual security audits.”

Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon, superintendent of Southampton County Public Schools, said the grant money will be used to replace the aging phone, public address and intercom systems at Meherrin and Nottoway, and to install outdoor surveillance cameras in the parking lot of Southampton High School.

“The safety and security of our students and staff is the top priority for Southampton County Public Schools,” Shannon said. “I want to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. Bill Hatch, technology specialist, and Mr. Chris Tsitsera, coordinator of federal programs, for their research and development of the grant proposal submitted to the Virginia Department of Education. It is through continual efforts such as this that Southampton County Public Schools can stay on the forefront of providing for our students and staff.”

Shannon added that the division is still working with vendors to determine an install process and time frame. Due to having to take the old systems offline during the replacement process, the division is trying to schedule the work to be done during a break if possible.