New Layers of Safety in Place for Start of School Year
Although statistics show that most schools will never experience a shooting (Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017, National Center for Education Statics), highly publicized attacks like those in Parkland, Florida and others around the nation causes concern among students, parents and staff.
Safe and encouraging learning and working spaces are key for academic success for students and the educators who teach them. That is why Fayette County Public Schools is starting the 2019-2020 school year with added security measures to help prevent ill-intended situations from happening in its schools.
Entrances to all schools will now have security vestibules. Some schools already had them when they were built or remodeled, but those that did not have been retrofitted for them. The schools being retrofitted include all five middle schools, Whitewater High School, Starr’s Mill High School, Sandy Creek High School, North Fayette Elementary School, Huddleston Elementary School, and Fayetteville Elementary School.
Vestibules are secured spaces with two or more sets of doors and an office sign-in area. Once a guest has been vetted by the outside intercom and camera system, the front doors to the school will be unlocked, allowing the guest to enter the vestibule. Once inside, guests will go through a second security check before being allowed access into the school.
In addition to providing added security of knowing who is visiting Fayette’s schools, the vestibules also serve as a single point of entrance for students who are late, or are coming from an appointment, enabling administrators to keep track of student attendance.
Another layer of security for all schools this year is the installation of a visitor management system. Once guests are allowed entrance in to the vestibule, they will sign-in using a self-service kiosk. The kiosk will scan their driver’s licenses and conduct a quick background check. The system will print name badges for guests to wear while in the school, and will allow administrators to quickly see who is in the building at any time. The school system will use state safety grant funds to pay for the initial installation of the visitor management system and licensing software. Annual software license renewals will be funded through school budgets at a cost of less than $500 per school.
Giving parents peace of mind at school bus stops has been a top concern for the school system’s transportation department. This year the transportation department will launch the new Safe Stop App, available for IOS and Android devices, which will eliminate the guessing game of when the school bus will show up. The app will actually give parents the ability to look in real time to determine the location of their child’s bus, allowing them to know exactly when their children are picked up in the mornings and dropped off in the afternoons. The app is available for free download at the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. To learn more about the app and instructions on how to use it, visit https://www.fcboe.org/mystop.
The school system is constantly reviewing its safety plans and looking for ways to better serve and protect its schools. For years, the school system has worked with local law enforcement agencies to periodically bring in K-9 detection dogs to search for illegal drugs. Since the use of the local K-9s is limited, the school system has decided to implement a pilot program for the first semester of 2019 using detection dogs provided by Interquest Detection Canines. The dogs are trained to detect not only illegal drugs, but also alcohol and firearms. The dogs will only be used at the middle and high school level, and their visits will be unannounced.
Keeping schools safe allows students and staff to look forward to being in an encouraging environment that promotes social and creative learning. The Fayette County Public School System will continue to research ways to increase security at its schools, taking away any worries about safety so that school communities have the freedom to explore, learn and grow in a protected and encouraging environment.