Board member considers armed guards in local schools
Following a meeting on school system safety and evaluations made at the county’s seven schools, an overview of security needs was presented to the Grady County Board of Education Tuesday night.
At least one board member would like to consider placing armed guards at each school.
Operations Director Jerry Cox briefed the school board members on recommendations from the local schools to beef up security on the seven school campuses here.
“To summarize it boils down to better communication capabilities, surveillance equipment and administrative office security,” Cox said.
He is currently considering what communication system upgrades are necessary and noted that at Southside Elementary School the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization had moved forward and purchased radios for school personnel to improve communications.
“We are also looking at adding cameras at the schools and just how many we actually need in order to work up cost estimates,” the operations director said.
Cox is also looking at ways to improve security for the school administrative offices by possibly installing a service window and restricting access to the “command and control” center of the school.
School system officials are also evaluating the need for additional and better fencing of school campuses as well as limiting vehicular access to campuses.
No matter what the school board decides to do, Cox said that it will require a change in the mindset of teachers, staff and administrators to make schools safer.
Cox said an example is locking classroom doors when teachers are teaching. “We can make sure all classroom doors can be locked, but if teachers don’t lock them it does us no good,” Cox said.
“We talk about fences and cameras as deterrents, but if someone really wants to get into the school they will get in. Have we looked at armed guards at each school as a possibility?” Board member Scott Higginbotham asked.
Cox said he was somewhat surprised that had not been a recommendation from the individual schools.
Armed guards at each school remains an option on the table, according to Cox, and he said he would supply cost estimates to the board.
“We hope we never have to use them, but it is something we should look into,” Higginbotham said.
Cox said that every school has an emergency management plan that outlines procedures for any given crisis, however, he plans to develop an easy-to-use guide that can be provided to school staff members as well as substitute teachers.
With the consensus of the board, Cox is moving forward with pricing out the various options identified as needs for improving school security.