AMHERST COUNTY, Va. – The focus on school safety continues this week for many Virginia districts, after more state level grants were announced Thursday for school resource officer positions. More than $700,000 is going to local districts.
As a result of the grants, Amherst County leaders will be able to maintain the four school resource officer positions the district had last year, after increasing the staff level before the 2018-2019 school year.
Sheriff E.W. Viar said having officers in schools is critical.
“It's very important. It's instrumental to us for the safety of the students and the staff there,” Viar said.
And the officers' duties extend beyond the school year. They also run summer camps, like the one going on this week and next week at the Sheriff's Office.
Instead of being scared of us, we want the children to come to us and believe in us and believe they can tell us what's going on,” he said.
He and assistant superintendent William Wells would like to have enough money in the future to have more school resource officers -- one in each of the 10 schools. They're thankful for the state funding.
“These grants do assist us in that manner so we don't have to rely on the taxpayers of Amherst County so much, to do these things that are vital for the safety of our students,” Wells said.
The tragedies like the mass shooting at a school in Parkland Florida stay on their minds.
“You think about it every day. You can't help but think about the things that go on. Are we doing things we need to do to make sure our buildings are safe and our students are safe?” Wells said.
Also, through grant funding, there are other elements of school security that will be new this coming school year.
After getting buzzed into an elementary school, people will now need a keycard to get past a second door, and there are new, sturdier classroom doors coming to every school that needs them.