By Kim Barto Meeks

Staff Writer

Martinsville City Schools will be one of the first school divisions in Virginia to install a gunshot detection system, the school board learned Monday evening.

School Safety Director T.J. Slaughter shared details of how a recently awarded state grant will be used to improve school security in a presentation to the Martinsville School Board during its regular monthly meeting Nov. 11.

Martinsville City Schools has received $80,553 through the School Security Equipment Grant program to make security upgrades at Albert Harris Elementary, Martinsville High, Martinsville Middle, and Patrick Henry Elementary schools. The division must provide 25 percent in matching funds, or $20,138.

Slaughter said the gunshot detection system is “something new that school divisions are exploring,” and he only knows of two other districts that have it in Virginia. If shots are fired at a school, “the system can actually tell what caliber of weapon is being fired” and it automatically calls 911, he said. “It takes out the human element and allows a faster response time from law enforcement.”

The system will be installed at every school except Clearview Early Childhood Center, which was not eligible for the grant. Remaining grant funds will be used to add and upgrade cameras, secure doors, and install new ID check software for visitors at school entrances.

The School Board also heard from Martinsville High School Principal Aji Dixon about the progress of the SEED program. SEED is funded by a grant from The Harvest Foundation that provides the first two years of college tuition at Patrick Henry Community College at no cost to graduates of local high schools and homeschool programs. Graduating seniors who live in Martinsville and Henry County are eligible if they have at least a 2.5 grade-point average, enroll at PHCC right out of high school, and meet other criteria, Dixon said.

The three-year grant program opened to high school graduates in spring 2018 and is now in its second year. Dixon said so far this year, around 72 Martinsville High School students have signed up for SEED out of about 130 seniors.

For more information, students should ask their guidance counselor or visit www.patrickhenry.edu/seed.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the School Board:

– Approved the consent agenda, which included the minutes of the October meeting and the monthly financial report.

– Appointed board members Dominique Hylton and Emily Parker to the budget subcommittee.

– Heard from two students from Ama Waller’s class at Martinsville Middle School, who presented on a recent project around the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

– Approved revisions to the School and Community Relations section of the School Board policy manual to comply with updates from the Virginia School Boards Association.

– Heard updates from Superintendent Zeb Talley, who said the division recently received a $15,000 STEM grant from the Virginia Department of Education, and reminded the board that a gala fundraiser for the Martinsville City Public Schools Endowment will be held Feb. 1, 2020.