Virginia Beach is beefing up security in its schools

Commanding Officer at Oceana, Captain Chad Vincelette, left, and Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera, right, listed to Virginia Beach Public School Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence discuss the city's new school security panel at Princess Anne Elementary in Virginia Beach (Joshua Weinstein/Southside Daily)
Commanding Officer at Oceana, Capt. Chad Vincelette, left, and Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera, right, listed to Virginia Beach Public School Superintendent Aaron Spence discuss the city’s new school security panel at Princess Anne Elementary in Virginia Beach (Joshua Weinstein/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Back in April 2018, Virginia Beach City Public School Superintendent Aaron Spence assembled a Blue Ribbon Panel on School Safety and Security to analyze what needs to change in the schools’ security procedures.

Here’s what they’ve done:

RELATED STORY: $1 million will be used for security at Virginia Beach Public Schools. Here’s what’s up with that.

The Blue Ribbon Panel made a series of suggestions to the school division based on the three overarching areas VBCPS’s security system is based on:

  • Safety protocols, emergency preparedness, and response
  • Safety infrastructure and personnel
  • Behavior and mental health

From those recommendations, VBCPS was able to, through the allocation of more than $1 million in reversion funds, implement a new buzz-in locking system, bolster security infrastructure around the division, add more cameras, expand access control for staff, move security desks closer to entrances, and increase external fencing at some school campuses, according to a report released by the superintendent.

As of September 2018, all 86 of the division’s schools and centers had the new buzz-in system installed.

Reevaluating the security personnel

Another big portion of the enhancements VBCPS is looking to implement has to do with the reevaluation of the security personnel program.

There are currently 32 school resource officers and 196 security assistants present across the division’s 86 schools, according to a report to the VBCPS school board.

A problem that was addressed at the January school board meeting was the number of tasks on an assistant principal’s plate which includes monitoring the security team, the safe schools plan and drills and evacuations.

To remedy that, the Blue Ribbon Panel released a recommendation to look at how the Office of Safe Schools, which handles security across the district, could take a little work off the assistant principal’s plate without minimizing the security procedures.

The Office of Safe Schools presented the option of adding a security supervisor to oversee the security details assistant principals were overseeing.

That security supervisor would not be a new position but rather an addition to the workload of an existing security assistant, with added pay.

The supervisor would report directly to the assistant principal.

This supervisor position, which would be funded through a stipend, would conduct more frequent safety audits, implement more training and add four days to the security assistant’s contracted schedule, according to the Office of Safe School’s presentation to the school board.

Overall budget implications for the new program would be a total of $671,825.

The next steps the school board will have to decide on will be to update job descriptions and responsibilities, revise the hiring process, review audit, assessment and incident support and continue to refine the leadership structure.

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