Schools adopt security programs

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) announced Friday that the division will be partnering with officers from Virginia State Police (VSP) to offer additional safety measures for students at area schools.

Nancy Leonard

The program, Adopt-a-School Safety Program, is set to prioritize student safety through visits from state law enforcement, the release from the school division cited.

“In an effort to provide additional safety measures for our students, Virginia State Police law enforcement officers will be visiting our schools weekly for the remainder of the school year,” the release from CCPS cited. “Therefore, parents and community members may occasionally see a State Police cruiser parked on a school premises.”

“We are thankful to our local sheriff’s (office) and the Virginia State Police for their dedication to keeping our children safe,” school officials said in the release.

CCPS Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard said in an interview Tuesday that she met with Charlotte County Sheriff Thomas Jones and that the sheriff’s office will work with the county’s three elementary schools to provide additional security.

She said the division has one resource officer serving all three elementary schools, and the deputies would assist the schools with security.

“We are so fortunate because we have such a wonderful sheriff’s (office),” Leonard said, “and they are such strong partners to us.”

She said the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, contributed to the increased security measures at the school division.

“Since the tragedy in Florida, we’ve all taken a good, long look at what we’re doing,” Leonard said. “I know as a school division, we are calling in some additional resources.”

She said that VSP officers with the Adopt-a-School Safety Program will perform walkthroughs inside of area schools and offer suggestions on ways to strengthen security within the division’s schools.

“We are going to be following through and taking some of those suggestions, just to see if we can polish up what we’re doing,” Leonard said.

Leonard said security grants received from the state in the past two years, totaling approximately $200,000, have also helped. Through the grants, Leonard said they have installed cameras inside of and outside of the school buildings and installed a swipe entry mechanism that records the entry and exit of people in the schools.

Leonard said in addition to the Adopt-a- School Safety Program, Randolph-Henry High School will install a partition in the entrance of the school that will allow visitors to report directly to the school office.

“We are doing some renovations at Randolph-Henry High School on the restrooms, and while we’re doing that, we are having a security wall built,” Leonard said. “We’re going to build a partition that has the buzzer-equipped security door, so that folks, when they come to Randolph-Henry, they will have to go directly into the office. There is going to be a partition wall so that visitors cannot access the remainder of the building without being buzzed in.”

She said the schools will also take part in more emergency and lockdown drills and make sure mechanics such as panic buttons are in working order. She said the drills are age-appropriate and are not meant to scare or frighten students. She said parents may see students outside occasionally and to not be alarmed.

“We’re really looking at what we’re doing and making sure that we are doing all that we can to keep our precious students safe,” Leonard said. “We certainly don’t want our schools to look like prisons. We want our schools to be a happy place, but we do want to have safety measures built-in and (for) us (to) be very familiar and very prepared in the event of an emergency here locally.”

“We all have to operate now under the assumption that it’s not if something happens, it’s when something happens,” Leonard said, “and we have to think like that daily with security.”