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Safety measures on tap
for Henry schools

 

By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Earlier this month, several Henry County schools went on lockdown as a precaution when local law enforcement was dealing with a nearby situation. News reports of gunshots being fired at a DeKalb elementary school made local and national headlines last week, and while no one was injured in the incident, it was a stark reminder of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year. 

J.D. Hardin (right) shows Walnut Creek Elementary School Principal Rita Pitner where new safety doors will be installed in the building’s front entrance. The new security measures will be in place throughout Henry County schools.  Photo by Alex Welch

  Although rare, it’s events like those that leave many parents worried and anxious, looking for reassurances that their children will be safe while in school. In Henry County, officials are taking measures to heighten the safety and security of students.

  According to J.D. Hardin, Communications Specialist for Henry County Schools, every elementary and middle school will be installing a second set of security doors that allows access only into the main office, so that no one entering the school can bypass the office and go directly into the school.

  He said the plan for the doors was approved in the 2011 E-SPLOST and with recent events has been moved up on the tier list of priorities.

  Currently, all exterior doors are locked in the elementary and middle schools except for one of four doors in the front of the schools. Hardin admits that if someone is intent on entering a building, he or she will usually find a way, but extra security doors will buy time.

  “That’s a huge layer of security in our opinion,” said Hardin.

  He went on to explain that although an armed intruder is unlikely, a more common concern might be an unauthorized parent or relative attempting to take a child out of school. In any case, the extra security doors would help prohibit such action.

  The security doors are expected to be installed at 40 schools in the next few months.

  Hardin said the E-SPLOST funds also allowed for security cameras in every school, which are in place now. He said there are also five additional resource officers who will be patrolling schools.

  Hardin said that putting the security doors in the elementary and middle schools is appropriate as they are more vulnerable. Also, resource officers are primarily located in the high schools, although they patrol all of the schools at various times.

  “Stopping short of making our schools prison-like, which is not conducive to learning, we do everything we can to keep students safe,” said Hardin. “We do various training, including evacuation exercises, safety drills, lockdown drills and other measures, and all of our preparations are approved by various law enforcement agencies, including GEMA.” 

  Hardin said the estimated cost for the new doors at the 40 schools is approximately $1 million and work on all schools should be completed within the next two months, near the end of fall.

  He said that what parents can do is to make sure all of their contact phone numbers are correct and up to date, as well as the emergency contact names and numbers on file for the students, so that in the event of an emergency, information can be easily and effectively disseminated.

 

 

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