The publicity recently generated concerning safety and security in our schools has not been lost on the high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools in Cherokee County.
In the Cherokee School District, additional security measures have been taken, including the fact that there will be just one entrance open during the school day at each of the school buildings. Visitors also will be required to fill out a visitation form and will be issued name tags.
Cherokee Superintendent John Chalstrom said that because of the number of visitors during after-school events, the policy of having only one entrance open will be in effect only during the school day.
Whenever an extracurricular event or assembly occurs during the school day, the requirement that visitors check in will be waived "on a common sense basis," according to Chalstrom.
Aurelia Superintendent Tom Vint said the recent school incidents have caused he and his staff to review current policies. The school does have a policy on lock-downs, recently reviewed by the Board in a regular policy review.
Vint said the school has staged fire drills and tornado drills for years, and feels a lock-down drill is, unfortunately, a sign of the times - a different type of disaster to which students and staff need to know the response procedure.
The Aurelia schools participated in a lock-down drill on Thursday. School
administrators went to the individual classrooms and common areas to begin the drill, and then returned to give the all clear. Classroom teachers locked the doors, pulled the shades, and turned out the lights. Students moved to areas of the room where they could not be seen from the doorway.
"While we hope and pray that we never have to use the drill in a real situation, we feel it is important for our students to be prepared," said AHS Principal Dave Hickman.
Aurelia school visitors are required to sign in at the Principal's or Superintendent's office, and Vint says that staff members have been instructed, if they see an unfamiliar visitor, to ask them courteously, "Can I help you?" Visitors are not required to wear a badge or other type of identification, and one of the less-frequently used entrance doors is now locked.
The Aurelia school has security cameras at the main entrances of both the High School and the 1920 building. These were purchased and installed in the spring of 2005, following two break-ins in a five-month span.
Vint said the staff reviews all safety and security issues at the beginning of each school year.
Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Superintendent Jan Brandhorst noted at a recent School Board meeting that his school will be practicing tighter security in all their buildings. Each school will have only one primary entrance, and visitors must sign in at the office, where Identification badges will be given out. MMC staff has also been reminded to ask questions of unknown visitors they meet in the halls of the school.
River Valley Superintendent Julie DeStigter said that most of the doors at the River Valley schools are locked. They have had school visitors sign in at the office for several years now, and have just begun issuing identification badges to visitors.
DeStigter said that she personally does not believe in the value of security cameras, seeing them as an "after the fact" method of spotting trespassers, rather than as a precautionary measure preventing crime.
The River Valley school has a lock-down policy in its policy manual, and staff members regularly review the Emergency Preparedness Handbook.