On December 4, 2020, the Virginia Department of Education announced $12 million in state School Security Equipment Grants to protect students, faculty and school visitors. Western Branch Middle was one of 489 schools in the 102 school divisions who were identified in the announcement and will receive $47,883. This grant will pay for new security cameras. The new cameras will be an upgrade over the current system installed at WBMS and will allow for greater resolution and coverage at the building.
“This year, we have doubled the amount of assistance available to help Virginia school divisions protect our students and the educators, administrators, and staff dedicated to preparing them for success,” Governor Ralph Northam said. “We remain focused on supporting students and their families in navigating the pandemic and preparing for in-person learning to resume, which includes ensuring that our schools have all the necessary technology, equipment, and systems to keep everyone safe and to respond to emergencies.”
The 2019 Appropriation Act approved by the General Assembly doubled the total annual appropriation for the grant program — effective this year — from $6 million, to $12 million. The 2019 General Assembly also approved the governor’s proposal to increase the maximum award per school division — effective last year—from $100,000, to $250,000.
“Virginia is a national leader in school security and the grants announced today support our proactive approach to creating and maintaining safe learning environments,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “In many cases, the equipment and systems divisions will purchase with these funds address vulnerabilities identified through the commonwealth’s pioneering school security audit program.”
The criteria for making the awards — developed by VDOE and the Virginia 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. The program expanded this year to include funding for security equipment for school buses. The School Security Equipment Grants program was established by the 2013 General Assembly in the aftermath of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.