During a very successful and productive school safety workshop March 8, parents, teachers and community members voiced their concerns and offered suggestions on how to make Dawson County schools safer.
Hundreds of suggestions were compiled, assessed and brought before the board of education in April. The board then voted to allocate $400,000 from ESPLOST funds to go toward countywide safety upgrades at its April 16 meeting.
Also approved was a position for a Safe Schools Coordinator who will be responsible for assisting with strategic direction of all system-wide school safety services, facilitating the development and monitoring of the system’s emergency preparedness plan, implementing programs and activities to reduce school violence, collaborating with the School Resource Officers and being a liaison between the sheriff’s office and school system, according to the job’s posted duties and responsibilities.
Several safety changes will be made across the county beginning in June 2018.
The school system has been working with the sheriff’s office and the board of commission to approve additional school resource officers so that each of the seven campuses will have one full time SRO in place. The cost of the SROs is shared with the county and will continue to be shared with the additional positions.
Sheriff Jeff Johnson requested additional SROs at a BOC meeting last month and said the cost to the county would be $58,408 per position.
Collaboration with the sheriff’s office will continue as the school system will utilize off duty sheriff’s office employees to direct traffic so that SROs can maintain their presence in the schools during the most critical times of the day. The cost will also be split with the county and was another request made by Johnson at the BOC meeting last month.
Two new SRO positions as well as traffic control officers were approved by the BOC April 5.
An additional emergency lockdown method will be added to each front office so that the front office staff can initiate a school-wide lockdown.
A “buzz in” system will be added to each school so that the front office is only accessible after establishing communication with the staff and being cleared for entry. Another buzz would be required to enter the main part of the building. The new system would significantly slow visitor entry into the buildings.
The board also plans to make all campuses less accessible from the outside by either installing mirror window tint or blinds to front office areas to limit outside visibility as well as removing recycle bins that attract visitors to the campuses. Signage will be placed stating the visitors must report to the front office upon entering campus.
The last safety measure to be implemented will be an added alert system that is easily accessible to all staff, which will be a significant investment according to the submitted safety recommendations presented to the board, though no estimated cost has been stated. The system would give first responders accurate information concerning location should an emergency occur.