School districts in Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta County were among the 100 Virginia school divisions to receive security equipment grants this week according to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's office.
The grants were established by the 2013 Virginia General Assembly in the aftermath of the December 2012 mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Grant awards come from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.
Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, said the grant program was established after the General Assembly determined that Virginia's schools security infrastructure was badly in need of improvement.
"This is an important step that will give localities additional resources that they need to ensure that every child, teacher, and staff member will remain safe at school,'' Bell said in a press release.
The grants offer priority to the schools who most need modern security equipment but are not able to afford the much-needed upgrades. Grants must be matched locally by 25 percent.
The $63,554 grant awarded to the Waynesboro Schools will go for security equipment at Berkeley Glenn and Wenonah elementary schools, said Assistant Superintendent Vermell Grant.
Grant said the school district will buy a camera system that monitors entrances, exits and hallways at Wenonah and Berkeley Glenn. The system will also be capable of viewing the school parking areas.
And Grant said should school officials want to review what the camera has captured, "we can identify whether discipline issues have happened and who is entering the building." Previously, similar grants have funded security equipment at Waynesboro High School, Kate Collins Middle School and Westwood Hills Elementary School.
For Staunton, the $53,302 in grant funding provided a way to continue two of the district's ongoing projects, adding security cameras to all schools and installing more exterior lights.
"We've been working on getting more cameras in all of our schools," said Jelisa Wolfe, Staunton's Director of Student Services. Those cameras will be installed at Bessie Weller Elementary, Shelburne Middle School and R.E. Lee High, she explained.
Staunton had applied for a third project, through grant funding, but was rejected, as they wanted to buy some outdoor blinds, installed on the interior side of the windows.
"The idea is that in a lockdown, the teacher could just pull that blind so it's one less entryway into the classroom," Wolfe said. "Unfortunately, we were denied for that."
In Augusta County, the school district received a $60,116 grant. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Doug Shifflett said the funds would be used to put call buttons in each classroom at Fort Defiance High School and for security cameras at Stewart Middle School and at least two elementary schools coming from Craigsville, North River and Stump elementary schools.
Shifflett said the call buttons would allow teachers at Fort Defiance to press a button and contact the school's main office. And because the Augusta County Schools did not receive all the funds it sought, Shifflett said there will have to be some decisions made about which of the elementary schools will get equipment.
He said Augusta County would continue to apply for the security equipment grants "to build our equipment at all our schools."