Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced a $16.4 million competitive grant program to improve security infrastructure in high-need school divisions. The Stronger Connections grant program prioritizes divisions where students are at increased risk of violence and chronic absenteeism and with high student-to-staff ratios for counselors, psychologists and social workers. The criteria for awarding the grants also prioritize rural schools and schools with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
“We know students learn best when they feel safe in their classrooms, and when teachers are able to focus on the academic needs and well-being of their students,” said Governor Youngkin. “While Virginia has long been a leader in school safety with regular threat assessments and security audits and annual state grants for school security equipment, the events of the school year now coming to a close remind us that we need to do more to protect our students and the educators to work everyday to prepare them for success.”
Stronger Connections grants will improve school safety through the purchase of advanced security equipment and systems that reduce vulnerability to attacks in K-12 schools, provide threat detection technology, and improve communication during emergencies. Grant funds may also be used for the analysis of threat assessment data and funding for school resource and school security officers in schools where none are currently assigned.
“Schools have diverse needs, and the Stronger Connections grant program supports a wide array of strategies and tactics, from ‘hardening the target’ through the installation of updated security and surveillance systems to comprehensive planning to develop division-wide approaches for assessing threats and improving learning climates,” said Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera.
“I want to thank Governor Youngkin for his leadership and dedication to meeting the urgent need of our schools for increased safety and security,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons. “I believe that the Stronger Connections grant program will make a real difference in the lives of our teachers and students by supporting improvements that will allow them to focus their attention and teaching and learning.”
The Virginia Department of Education will make the Stronger Connections grant application available to school divisions on June 1 on the VDOE website. School divisions will have until August 1 to apply, and VDOE will announce the awards in the fall. More information on the Stronger Connections grant program is available on the VDOE website.