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FCPS poised to fund new security tech and summer school programs

Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

Settlement money from vape-maker Juul will help Fairfax County Public Schools bolster security at some high schools.

The Fairfax County School Board is set to vote tomorrow (Thursday) on adjustments to the school system’s fiscal year 2024 budget, including allocations of the $3.2 million it received from Juul after settling a class-action lawsuit over the company’s flavored e-cigarettes last year.

In a presentation to the board on March 7, FCPS staff recommended using the funding to “install security scanning technology at select high schools” as part of a new pilot program. If approved, the funds would add onto $3 million designated for the program in August, FCPS Chief Financial Officer Leigh Burden noted.

However, FCPS has been tight-lipped about the pilot, including on the technology being implemented and how many schools are participating.

“At this time, we are not prepared to provide details of the program to the public,” an FCPS spokesperson told FFXnow. “This information will be released when, and as appropriate, to include the identification of schools. Safety and security physical and technical systems are needed to assist in operational safety planning.”

FCPS confirmed the safety and security screening pilot is separate from the security vestibules that it has been adding at dozens of schools around the county. Prioritized by the school board in response to the May 24 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the vestibules add an extra layer of verification for visitors seeking to enter school buildings.

Last April, Superintendent Michelle Reid detailed several other security measures that FCPS was either testing or considering, including vape sensors in bathrooms, panic alarm systems and a weapons screening system.

At the time, FCPS said the weapons screening system was in the pilot phase. It’s unclear if that’s the same as the screening technology pilot now poised to get additional funding.

The school board also approved funding in December for exterior security cameras at nine elementary schools, along with money to support continuous employee background checks.

Other changes proposed as part of the FY 2024 third-quarter review include a transfer of $3.3 million from a reserve fund to a fund dedicated to supporting FCPS’ summer school programs.

“Summer school focuses on executive functioning, acceleration of reading and mathematics foundation skills, enrichment programs at the elementary and middle school level, and course credit recovery to ensure on-time graduation at the high school level,” staff said in a summary of the third-quarter review.

The money will support programs for 35,000 students at 73 sites, according to Burden. FCPS had set aside a total of $6.7 million in August for enhanced summer learning programs, but that was before staff finalized the locations and enrollment projections.

The budget is also being adjusted to reflect a grant received for food services, new federal funding for adult education and an $143.5 million increase in “additional contractual commitments” for bond-funded renovation projects at Bren Mar Park, Brookfield and Lees Corner elementary schools.

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