11/12/06 — Schools examine new security options

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Schools examine new security options

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 12, 2006 2:01 AM

Wayne County Schools officials say the district has made several additions to make sure students are safe when they head to class and that even more security features -- like cameras and access control systems -- could be on the way soon.

Olivia Pierce, executive director for community relations, said during a recent board of education meeting that part of the school system's technology plan requires officials to address safe schools.

"Among the strategies in our plan is to increase the number of walk-through metal detectors and other devices that will ensure safety in our schools," she said.

The district previously purchased handheld and portable walk-through metal detectors, said Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services. And there are plans to purchase permanent ones at more locations in the future.

There is also an emergency flip chart provided at every school and in every classroom, Mrs. Pierce said. As needs change, revisions are made so the staff will have step-by-step procedures to follow in the event of any emergency.

"We work extremely hard to be up on everything that we need to do to prevent violence in our schools," said Dr. Ruby Bell, director of middle grades, staff development, accreditation and alternative schools.

Hill said there is a need to be proactive and take preventive steps to have secure schools.

To illustrate his point, he made a call to Southern Wayne High School, where a video surveillance system has recently been installed. The school system purchased the camera and grants allowed the school to buy the digital video recorder.

While Hill spoke with principal Tim Harrell, a video screen allowed the board to see Harrell in his office. The system also offers officials the chance to view other areas of the school.

"It records daily," Harrell said. "It has worked out well. I love it."

Hill said the technique is something that is being considered for all schools in the system. At the outset, they would be installed in the high schools, then middle schools, and finally in the elementary schools.

"This is what we're looking at in the future. We have been studying this in-depth," he said.

An access control system was also mentioned. Hill said with about 2,500 different locks needed to open every door in the school system, the safety risk is great and had prompted consideration of a card system similar to that used by hotels.

In such cases, the card could be deactivated after a certain period of time and could be reprogrammed as needed.

Hill said the school system is also studying ways to do a lockdown with the touch of a button and the possibility of providing every principal with a handheld computer to surveil down every hall.

"These are just some of the lessons we learned from Columbine," he said. "We're being proactive. We need to do this before something happens."

Board member Shirley Sims said, "We have just been blessed so far that something disastrous hasn't happened. I'm very happy to see us going in this direction."

Funding will be what most delays the process, Hill said. A cost analysis is being done, he said, but in the case of the school cameras and digital video system, the price could be as much as $2.5 million.