Access Control, SROs at Forefront of Many School Safety Plans
School districts in Alabama, Indiana, Tennessee and Georgia are among many whose approved budgets for additional security include access control and school resource officers.
As more and more K-12 school districts are getting budgets approved for additional school safety measures in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, two aspects that have been at the head of many plans are access control and school resource officers.
One such district is Dothan City Schools in Dothan, Ala., after the Dothan City Board of Education approved a $543,000 investment in physical security upgrades at the district’s 22 public schools, reports The Dothan Eagle.
The new investment, approved Monday, will allow the district to hire 11 security officers for schools that do not have school resource officers, which have been provided by the Dothan Police Department. The monthly cost of the security officers and cell phones for security personnel is estimated to be around $34,335.
Dothan City Schools Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards says the decision to add more security officers came after consultations with Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish and his department regarding school safety.
The additional money will be used for physical school upgrades, including key access to the four external doors at each school.
“If you were to come in, you would have to put your ID in there. It’s like a kiosk,” described Edwards. “It immediately looks you up and sees if you have any issues at the school. They are using it at Northview (High School) and it is pretty successful.”
The district will also be implementing the Raptor Visitor Management System, which scans a person’s photo and name and prints it out on a visitor badge.
Lawrenceburg Community Schools District in Indiana will also be hiring three new armed school resource officers for the 2018-2019 school year after the Greendale Redevelopment Commission voted to approve $110,000 in school security funding on Tuesday.
“If you have active or an armed intruder in the building, the number one thing that we need is someone there to be able to mitigate or be able to stop that right away. Having an armed security guard that’s trained in police tactics and those resources is what we need in the buildings,” says Superintendent Karl Galey.
Lawrenceburg currently has one armed school resource officer serving its four schools.
Beginning next school year, the four SROs will be circulating through the buildings. Administrators are also scheduled to meet with the Lawrenceburg Police Department to create more specific responsibilities and requirements for the officers.
Galey also says he hopes to obtain up to $50,000 more from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s Indiana Secured School Safety Grant program, which is likely to receive an additional $5 million in funding when Indiana lawmakers meet for a special session in May, according to Eagle Country Online.
K-12 Visitor Management Big Concern for Many School Districts
Earlier this month, the Cheatham County Commission unanimously approved a capital outlay note for $500,000 to secure entrances at the nine schools in the Cheatham County School District in Ashland City, Tennessee.
Cal Blacker, director of maintenance for the Cheatham County School District, says three of the elementary schools will have “brick-and-mortar” improvements made. Blacker told the commission that the improvements will entail adding another set of doors, “so when you come into the entrance, you have to go into the office,” rather than gaining access to the entire school, reports The Tennessean.
Security walls similar to TSA security checkpoint booths will be installed at the remaining six buildings, but will be “more aesthetically pleasing to our schools” and will direct visitors to the office after getting buzzed into the building, continues Blacker. All improvements are expected to be made over the summer.
“It’s going to change the dynamics of entering into the schools,” Cheatham County School Board member James Gupton said at an April 2 school board meeting, “A good example is the one at Cheatham (County) Central High School: it’s no longer a place where you can just walk through the front door and have open access. (The funding is) for the purpose of making our schools safe. We really feel like this is something that we need to do.”
The Cheatham County Commission’s approval came just weeks before the Tennessee Senate passed its version of the state’s $37.5 billion spending plan for 2018-2019 on Wednesday, which includes $30 million for school safety.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed the $30 million budget for school safety on March 20. Haslam says the use of the money will be determined by his recently formed working group, which has been tasked with creating a school safety proposal.
Eight days later, Haslam ordered the first-ever safety assessment of every Tennessee public school before the start of the next school year. The security checks will be conducted by the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Education.
The assessment was one of three recommendations made by the working group. The other recommendations were an increase in resources for SROs and the creation of a statewide system for the anonymous reporting of security threats or suspicious activity.
Working with a smaller budget but also focusing on access control is the Butts County School District in Jackson, Georgia. On April 10, the Butts County Board of Education voted to allocate special purpose local option sales tax revenue to increase building security, according to Jackson Progress.
The board approved a $22,595 bid for the addition of electronic key card locks to 17 interior and exterior doors at all of the district’s schools. The board also approved $12,240 for new doorways that will separate the front offices from the interior halls that lead to administrative offices, which in turn lead to the main hallways of the schools. These doorways will also have key card access.
“With the exception of Jackson High School, we do not have doors that separate the front office reception areas from the office hallways,” Assistant Superintendent of Operations Shannon Christian wrote in the bid proposal. “We gathered quotes to add those doors to all three elementary schools and Henderson Middle School. They can be locked at all times but can be entered by staff who have card access.”