RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a new law supporting school safety into law.
House Bill 741 will require school boards in Virginia to create detailed and accurate floor plans for each of their public school buildings.
Additionally, the governor announced $6.5 million in funding through the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to help public schools develop these digital floor plans. The Digital Mapping Program for Virginia K–12 Schools will fund up to $3,500 per public school to create a common operation picture through digital maps for school administrators and first responders to use during emergencies.
“This legislation and the Digital Mapping Program for Virginia K–12 Schools will help ensure the safety of all students, staff and visitors who enter our schools,” said Gov. Youngkin. “It will likewise promote the safety of the brave men and women who keep our children safe.”
To receive funding through the program, an authorized school division representative should collaborate with local first responder partners, select a vendor for the digital mapping project and submit an application to DCJS. After the maps have been created and shared with first responders, school divisions may be reimbursed.
More information about the Digital Mapping Program for Virginia K–12 Schools can be found here.
In Portsmouth, Dr. Cardell Patillo, chair of the school board, told News 3 the city police department has worked with the the school system to develop physical maps of the schools. He supports making them digital, but isn't sure of the cost.
"I think it's a great endeavor. I think it's a great idea by the governor to create a fund for this endeavor. I'm just hoping it will supply the total cost for the projects, so the burden doesn't fall on the school divisions," said Patillo. "If there were ever to be an emergency situation within our schools, having easy access to our schools would be critical to saving lives and ensuring our children our safe."
The Director of the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety says $3,500 is what they anticipate it will cost each school, but costs could vary. A school safety audit report from last year found 70-percent of school divisions have these electronic maps available for first responders.
Police say digital versions of them just make things easier. "Physical maps usually mean that one or two people can look at a map at a time. A digital map means we all can be looking at a map at the same time and that's really, really important," said Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard, who is also the immediate past president of the executive board of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
Law enforcement officers say in emergencies seconds matter. "Even if let's say an active shooter does stop quickly, there's always hesitation of where to go - where to bring people out - and these maps are only going to enhance our effectiveness to mitigate that and to get in there quickly," said DeBoard.