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Gov. Youngkin directs $6.5 million to help Central Virginia Delegate’s school safety bill

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 10:52 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE Co., Va. (WVIR) - A new Virginia law signed with the intent to help first responders in emergency situations at school is getting help in the form of millions of dollars.

When an emergency is suspected at a school, the response needs to be rapid. That’s why Republican Del. Rob Bell, who represents the 58th District which includes parts of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, and Rockingham Counties, introduced the bill in the 2022 General Assembly in Richmond.

“The issue is when they have an emergency, it’s too late to go try to find a floor plan,” Bell said in an interview.

The bill would require all public schools in Virginia to submit a “detailed and accurate floor plan” within their annual safety audit.

“Schools are often renovating, they’re making additions, they might have changes to the floor plan,” Bell said. “And if you don’t keep it up to date, then obviously you wouldn’t have an accurate floor plan.”

These safety measures took a step forward on Monday when Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced his administration is putting $6.5 million from the Department of Criminal Justice Services toward the “Digital Mapping Program.” That means each of Virginia’s 1,861 public schools can get up to $3,500.

“It will enable schools to hire contractors to do the work, set it up, and then be reimbursed for those costs through this grant program,” Bell said.

When it was going through the General Assembly, the bill received supportive testimony from law enforcement like Maggie DeBoard, the immediate past president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

“One of the most important things for us in emergency response is having accurate, really detailed floor plans so that we know exactly where we’re going in an emergency,” DeBoard said back in February.

Bell said this bill can really pay dividends when law enforcement agencies from all over respond to an incident -- especially in districts like Albemarle County that have gotten rid of the school resource officers who are in the building every day.

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