Schools secured before students return
Published 12:20 pm Friday, July 26, 2013
Decatur County Schools are continuing to make school safety improvements in preparation for the 2013-2014 school year.
New secure main entrances are being constructed at Elcan-King Elementary and John Johnson Elementary. The entrances separate the lobby from the rest of the school with sturdy glass and metal doors that are electronically locked. Visitors will have to be buzzed in by staff or teachers during school hours.
Parents wanting to escort their children to their classrooms on the first day of school will still be able to do so.
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“The consensus has been that during normal dropoff time in the mornings, the doors will be kept open until 8 a.m., when class begins,” said Jennifer Wilkinson, Elcan-King principal.
Like other schools, all of the external doors at Elcan King, except for the front lobby door, can only be opened from the inside. The school’s playground is also fenced in.
Wilkinson said she liked that the added security at her school means that all visitors and parents will have to check in at the front office before continuing into the school, whereas before, that could not be strictly enforced.
At the temporary campus of Jones Wheat Elementary, in what was formerly West Bainbridge Middle School, chain-link fences have been put up to better secure the campus, which has multiple buildings.
“This is the first time in a while that this campus has been used as an elementary,” Maintenance Director Jerry Mills said. “It will be a new environment for the students, so we have fenced off the campus completely so that once the gates are closed, children can’t leave the school unsupervised.”
Because of the temporary nature of the campus, a secure lobby wasn’t initially planned for at the Dothan Road school, Mills said. But officials changed their minds and a new secure lobby will be built there not long after school starts, he said. A secure lobby was built into the current West Bainbridge Elementary on Zorn Road, and will also be built into the new Jones Wheat Elementary.
School safety was already an added emphasis for local school officials even before the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting last December. Last summer, Dr. Rayfield and officials from each school had worked to create a comprehensive safety plan for each school. The plans contain detailed information about who is responsible for what in the event of an emergency and gives an overview of how each school would respond to a variety of emergency situations.
But the Newton tragedy, which understandably saddened and concerned parents and educators nationwide, led to even more security steps.
Before classes resumed last January, administrators and teachers went over protocol for what they would do in the event of a school shooting.
In the Newtown tragedy, the shooter, Adam Lanza, broke through a glass barrier in the school’s lobby and hit a button to unlock the doors leading from the lobby into the school’s hallway.
During the previous school year, secure entrances were only present at Bainbridge High School, West Bainbridge Elementary School, Hutto Middle School and Bainbridge Middle School (the former BHS), where it was installed in Summer 2012.
Bainbridge Public Safety and the Sheriff’s Office have also conducted school walk-throughs and other training related to a potential lockdown situation at a school.
Along with each school’s safety plan, a detailed map of each school is kept on file with local law enforcement and school officials talk with officers about potential hazards and how they might respond if they occur.