Fourth District Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said she had asked the director to come after receiving calls with questions from parents — questions presumably raised following Friday’s tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 children and six adult educators.
“We do have heavy hearts for the folks in Connecticut,” McDaniel said. “When an event like this occurs it really causes us to pause to reflect on what we are doing, what we have in place and to be even more vigilant.”
Receiving the Safe Schools grant has made an impact on security planning in the Bradley County Schools, McDaniel explained.
Safe schools officer Scotty Hernandez evaluates safety plans in both the county and city schools. Schools also practice implementing the plans and what to do in an emergency. Hernandez said the school system has plans for responses to a variety of emergency situations. Some of these include shootings, fires and industrial chemical leaks. Faculty and students are trained to implement the plans and changes are made when needed to better ensure safety.
McDaniel said emergency personnel have copies of the blueprints for the schools to ensure a smooth response in the event of an emergency.
“That’s an important thing, that first responders know where to go in our buildings, that they know our buildings,” McDaniel said. “That is a key to a quick response.”
All visitors are asked to sign in when visiting a school, so administrators know who is in the building and when. Some of the county schools have been designed with the office in the lobby, preventing people from entering the school without stopping at the office.
McDaniel said his goal would be to have these same secure entrances at all the schools. All other doors to the school remain locked. At some of the schools, these entrances have been added during renovations.
“We have ID badges for all school personnel,” McDaniel said. “Faculty and staff are required to stop anyone in the building that does not have a tag on ... that’s an important piece for us for adults who come into the building.”
School resource officers, employees of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, also play an important role in keeping students safe. All of the schools, except for Goal Academy, have a school resource officer.
Dan Glasscock, liaison for the SRO program for county schools, said the school system would like to have one there as well.
Glasscock said the SROs learn their assigned schools to know the buildings. He said the schools will be looking at what should be done in an emergency event.
“In wrapping up this semester we will be doing some review of that and make sure that our teachers will be prepared, and principals as well,” Glasscock said.
Second District Commissioner Connie Wilson asked where the SROs are throughout the day.
Glasscock said this will probably be discussed more with the principals.
The SROs work with the principals at each school and may be in various areas of the school throughout the day. This includes the perimeter of the building. Glasscock said there are advantages to both being in the building and keeping an eye on the perimeter. He said he has not had any negative input on this procedure.
“I’ve not heard any complaints this year ... it’s really worked rather smoothly,” Glasscock said.
Glasscock said the SROs do not direct traffic at the schools, allowing them to be in the schools when students are being dropped off or leaving.
Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters said the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office and the school system had a good working relationship that benefited students.