Clarke group reveals its ideas for school safety
Posted: February 8, 2013
The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — Clarke County Public Schools could be beefing up its security if a local group’s recommendations are approved.
The School Board Safety and Security Committee met Thursday for the third time to come up with ways to make the division’s schools safer. The group of eight to 10 people included parents, school officials, Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper and Berryville Police Chief Neal White.
The committee was formed in the wake of the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school students.
Community member Neil Raper, speaking on behalf of himself and others on the committee, suggested that the division adopt a “low-key” approach to exterior security enhancements, so “we don’t look like Fort Knox when somebody comes to visit.”
Committee recommendations included installing cameras outside the schools, putting sensors on exterior doors that would immediately alert the school office and other unspecified entities of an intrusion, putting in locked and controlled entries in all schools, using cameras or intercoms to identify visitors, and placing a panic button and interior locks in all classrooms.
Wherever there’s a sensor on a building, there should also be an assessment device, such as a camera, Raper said. Video surveillance for all playground areas was recommended as well.
The group also determined that each school campus should have a security officer present at all times.
Putting material on exterior windows making it impossible for people to look in was also discussed.
Safety recommendations made about specific schools were discussed in closed session.
The group also talked about creating threat-assessment teams and barcoded staff IDs and visitor ID badges.
“Right now we’re inconsistent in that practice,” Superintendent Mike Murphy said of the visitor badges.
The group also discussed establishing a policy for access control to the school buildings.
“There are more people who have a key to the old high school than are in this room,” Murphy said.
Murphy also spoke about creating regional collaboration with the Frederick County and Winchester school divisions, so if there is a threat and students need to travel to another division’s buildings, the protocols will be similar.
Roper suggested looking into a cellphone policy for students and staff during emergencies.
During the Virginia earthquake in 2011, the Sheriff’s Office received about 60 calls and “were effectively out of business for 15 minutes answering phone calls.” Roper was concerned that during a threat, the number of calls coming in would be overwhelming and could cost law enforcement valuable minutes in response time.
Roper also suggested training school staff to identify students, parents and community members with mental illness and reporting it to staff and/or police.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as calling law enforcement and saying, ‘Hey, I think this person is having problems,’” he said.
Staff, according to Roper, should also be taught by law enforcement what would happen in the event of an emergency at one of the division’s schools.
Murphy dismissed one member’s suggestion that emergency training drills be practiced once a month.
“If I’m out training all the time, that’s less time for instruction,” he said.
The committee will take its recommendations to the School Board meeting on Feb. 25. At some point, the board will discuss if and when it can enact the recommendations and at what cost.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com