With the start of the 2019-2020 school year imminent and with two mass shootings just last weekend bringing back memories of the school incidents in Colorado, Connecticut & Florida, we talked with Dr. Aaron Allen, Associate Superintendent of Lincoln County Schools, about school safety for the coming year.
Dr. Allen told us: "We are working on a comprehensive security plan that will map out short term and long term solutions for safety and security on our campuses. This year, we will gather a group of community members, school officials, and parent representatives to discuss possible solutions.
"At present, with the additional sales tax revenue, we are committed to expanding security cameras in our elementary schools and replacing middle school and high school cameras to HD quality with increased capabilities compared to the older models.
"We have installed new security walls at the main entrances of WLMS and ELMS to bring all of our K-8 and Asbury Academy up to the same level of entrance security. All our sites have a remote door lock/open system in place to allow parents/visitors inside the building.
"The next phase will include high school entrances.
"Our campuses have multiple access points during the morning arrival time. These areas are also under review about possible enhancements, capital projects, and procedures that can be reevaluated in order to maintain normal operations in a different capacity.
"The Sheriff has also committed more resources in the form of an SRO supervisor and this new contact/liaison will work with the Lincoln County Schools offices to evaluate security measures, coordinate police coverage, and be a conduit between Lincoln County Schools, Lincoln Charter School, and the Sheriff’s office.
"Of course, we hope it's never needed in a real situation, but we practiced for the first time a reunification drill at West Lincoln Midddle School in the Spring of this year. Our plans are to practice this again in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters of the school year to test the internal processes with different levels of schools.
"Our administrators have worked with staff and students to review drill procedures and will practice on a monthly basis."
While security of school buildings is most important, security on buses transporting students is also a potential concern. Dr. Allen told us:
"We have recently added a new three-camera video DVR system to each yellow bus in our fleet. This was paid for by ¼ cent sales tax. This new system can see an area of 270 degrees and can pick up sound around the cameras. In the future, the activity bus fleet will also have such systems."
As previously reported when the purchase of the new cameras was announced at a School Board meeting, the cameras will also help in other ways. They will help to identify bullying or other misconduct on buses and could eventually be expanded to include an external camera that might catch those drivers who pass stopped school buses.
What about security at athletic events?
"Our athletic departments at middle schools and high schools have coordinated with coaches and administrators to create an emergency response protocol for both practices and games both home and away."
We asked Dr. Allen about a comment we had seen on Facebook regarding the possibility of having metal detectors at schools.
"This topic will be discussed with our community group regarding feasibility and the financial commitment needed to make this systematic, cultural, and school community shift. We are also exploring different room security device features for potential future implementation.
"We are working this year to upgrade our internal communication system with more emphasis on technology assisted communication. We are moving to a more APP based approach in communicating instantly.
"The State of North Carolina has also rolled out the 'See Something, Say Something' anonymous reporting app that is sponsored by Sandy Hook Promise. This will roll out this Fall with training and set-up plans from the State. This will allow students, staff, and community members to report an issue anonymously and have it go to their school administrators. The district leaders will also be notified in an effort to follow up on any reports. Once we get more info, we will have a press release to parents and the media to showcase how it works."
While there is no way to guarantee absolutely that no incident of violence will occur at a school or school-related event here or anywhere else, Dr. Allen said he believes the Lincoln County Schools are doing a good job addressing the possibility of any such occurrence.