By David Meade
School District One officials have been intensely involved in evaluating and improving safety and security of the District’s 14 schools since the shooting incident that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in December.
During their meeting Tuesday, District One Board members were updated on safety measures the district has already undertaken and presented information on future plans including implementing a Violent Intruder Response plan and providing proactive training.
“We have had a tremendous effort in the last two months,” said Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler.
Fowler told the Board that the District is “looking at where we are and where we will go in terms of safety and security.”
He and Associate Superintendent David Havird have attended two training sessions on school security and met with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and the Williamston Police Department recently.
Havird has headed up most of the recent safety improvements that have been made in the District.
“We have spent some time talking about and assessing emergency plans,” he said. “Obviously everybody should be doing that.”
“In District One we have a culture of continuous improvement and that is what we are doing in response to a violent intruder or active shooter situation,” Havird said. “We need to do improved training with our staff.”
Both Havird and Dr. Fowler said the District has made a lot of safety improvements and spent a lot of money to improve security, over the last four or five years.
The District was able to make a lot of improvements as part of their recenlty completed building program and low bids on construction projects resulted in available funds which were used to improve security at a number of schools.
“Some schools didn’t have safe entrances,” Havird said. “Now they have two or three entrance doors.” In addition persons entering a school must go through additional screening measures before they are allowed in.
One of the main security measures District One was able to accomplish was placing High Definition cameras in all 14 schools.
District One Director of Technology Andrea Hancock presented information on the camera system to the Board.
The Cysco system includes hardware, software and multiple cameras in all of the District One schools. The system allows live monitoring and archives can be kept for up to 14 days.
Havird said the school’s system can also be linked with the County 911 system allowing the sheriff’s office to monitor in real time should they ever respond to a crisis situation in the District.
In addition to the safety and security measures already in place, the District is being proactive by having a plan and training in place before an incident happens.
Havird and Director of Education Robbie Binnicker have put together a Violent Intruder Response Proposal which was presented to the Board.
The presentation included a review of safety procedures already in place in the District and identified a need for enhancements to the District’s current procedures.
“We have been studying this,” Havird said. “There is no doubt we need enhancements in our security process,” he told the Board. “We need to have proactive training.”
According to Havird, recent training sessions he has attended show a review of materials provided by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, International Association of Chief of Police, New York Police Department and Counter Terrorism Bureau resulted in new response options being recommended.
Havird said past training taught teachers and students to shut the door, lock it, go to a corner of the room and wait for law enforcement action.
New information provided from studies done on the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings have led to a different proactive approach in protecting and surviving an intruder or shooter situation.
According to Havird, the studies show that providing options including evacuation and being proactive can increase survival of an intruder situation.
The District is planning to implement a professional development training program for principals, teachers and students based on the proposal which was presented by Havird.
The plan focuses on five specific responses: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
“The first and best line of defense is a well trained, highly alert staff and student body,” he said. “This is the most important thing we can do.”
A detailed Draft Response Plan for District personnel was also presented to the board and accepted as first reading.
“Principals have to be the lead person in this training and it will need to be on an ongoing annual basis,” Havird told the Board.
“We definitely need proactive training. Everyone training is in the best interest of our students.” He said the plan fits in with the mission statement of the District, which states that “students learn better in a safe and secure environment.”
“It will be a very important part of our program,” he said.
Dr. Fowler said that the District plans to provide some training based on the Response Proposal for principals and teachers before this school year is finished.
Additional training will then be done annually, probably during the first five days of the new school year. Once principals and teachers are trained, information will be presented to students as part of their orientation.
(See separate story on District One School Safety/Security)