By Angie Gambill
Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, school systems across the nation have been examining their current security measures, and in most cases, improving and enhancing those programs. Sheriff Mike Reece recently met with the Director of Johnson County Schools Morris Woodring and his staff to discuss additional safety measures at local schools.
There are five elementary schools within the county in addition to the middle school, high school and vocational school. Currently, there is only one School Resource Officer (SRO) that is funded by the Johnson County School System. This officer usually remains at the Johnson County High School and Middle School during school hours, unless called to other schools for problems or concerns. Parents of local high school and middle school students received automated calls of heightened security at the foot of the hill leading to the middle and high schools. All vehicles are now being stopped by the security guard and the drivers asked to state their business and the school to which they are seeking entry.
In addition to the SRO at the high school and middle school, there are also security officers at those locations. However, these are security officers only. They are not armed and do not have law enforcement authority. According to Reece and Woodring, that until further discussion can determine future action, a second sheriffs department officer can be utilized temporarily to rotate between the additional elementary schools during school hours during the remainder of the school year. As of January 7 when students and faculty returned to school in Johnson County, there is a deputy sheriff visiting each elementary school on a daily basis. The deputy will also be meeting with the principals of each school to address any concerns that they may have.
We want to try to make every effort that we can to make sure that our schools are safe and that faculty, staff and children also feel safe while they are there, said Sheriff Reece.
Woodring says panic buttons have also been installed at all county elementary schools to give school personnel quick access to assistance if trouble arises. Additional security cameras are being installed throughout our schools. We are fortunate to have a security room where cameras from all schools in the county can be monitored at all times, says Woodring. He also adds that all school buses have two-way radio communication with access to emergency 911.
By Angie Gambill