By NEESEY PAYNE
It’s inevitable; questions about school safety are going to arise when community meetings are called to collaborate on ideas that affect the future of Pulaski County’s leaders of tomorrow. At Tuesday night’s community meeting Pulaski County School Board Chairman Mike Barbour set the record straight.
The goal of the community meetings is to allow opinions to be voiced concerning renovation and/or construction of Pulaski and Dublin middle schools, as well as Dublin Elementary School. As J.D. Price, vice president, OWPR Architects and Engineers put it, the meetings allow members of the community to compile a “wish list” of things they would like to see their schools have.
Christy Underwood said she would like to see “all of the schools, be them new or renovated, have a central location where people have to check in” and don’t have the option of “being able to sneak down the hall to see their child.”
Dr. Thomas Brewster, superintendent of schools, reiterated what he said during Monday night’s community meeting, explaining that installation of buzzer and camera security systems will begin in the next two weeks. He said priority of installation will be given to “those schools whose front entrances are away from the office,” with Dublin Middle School, Dublin Elementary School, Pulaski Middle School and Snowville Elementary School taking top priority over other schools.
A community member then asked what will be done when the weather gets warmer and all the windows and doors will have to be open at Dublin Elementary School so that students can breathe. Her concern was that someone could get through the door before anyone sees that person on camera.
Brewster said he would be more than happy to address that concern one on one because the focus of the conversation of the meeting was getting off track.
Another member in the community asked how the security system was going to work when the latest school shootings have involved people who were familiar and knew the school buildings.
“We can’t guarantee 100 percent of anything. That’s not a fair question,” said Brewster.
A parent interjected saying that he appreciated the fact that the school system was putting the security systems in place. “I would much rather have them than not have them,” he said, adding there is no way the school system can account for every safety issue that could happen. The best thing the school system can do is “put safety precautions in place.”
Ronnie Nichols, director of operations, said that once receiving the security systems, all schools in the county should have them installed within two to three weeks.
Former Ingles District Supervisor Ranny Akers said a handgun is easy to conceal and that the right people need to be put in place to monitor security cameras at all times.
Then Barbour stepped in and set the record straight.
“I think we’re getting a little bit off track tonight,” he said. “Let me assure everyone … we’ve literally stepped on the gas pedal with the (Central Emergency Planning Team).” Barbour said that over the next few weeks, community members are going to “see a series of recommendations that are going to address a spectrum of school security concerns.” He said the concerns mentioned were “valid,” but for “every safety procedure, every piece of equipment, every school resource officer or school security officer you can always find an additional concern.”
Barbour said every school building is different, with each having its own set of issues. “We are examining every single one of them. It’s happening and you’re going to see some recommendations coming very quickly that are going to hopefully address some of the most immediate concerns.” He said that some buildings will require modifications that will take longer to put in place.
“Let me assure everyone here that school safety is … a top priority,” he said.