BY JIM HERRIN
“School safety is a constant conversation in the schools,” said Deputy Director Corby King as he updated school board members this month on the security measures that have been taken over the past couple of years.
He said school officials and SROs address security issues “daily,” and also meet monthly to review emergency plans through the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and individual School Emergency Response Teams (SERT).
“But a lot of the things we’ve done .. are not things that the public can just see, so we want to remind them what we’re doing with the funds that we’ve been given by the state,” King said.
King said the system received $105,000 in recurring funds for the 2018-19 school year, and one-time funds in the amount of $265,000.
“We have now spent or encumbered all of that money,” he said.
King said funding was spent on a new anonymous tip line to report potential threats and bullying.
“We have been pleased with it so far,” he said. “We’ve had more response from the students. Students are using the app, sending alerts, sending messages. Not all of them are valid, but we are receiving some valid issues, and the principals are able to address them.”
King said $36,000 was spent to implement the Ident-A-Kid visitor management system, and $21,000 was allocated to Navigate Prepared, described as “digital, online emergency operations plans.”
“It standardizes the plans for all of our schools,” King said. “It tracks the drills that we’ve completed. It has all the contact information.”
King said the power of the software was highlighted when the school system conducted a full-scale community drill last September at Algood Middle School.
“We could actually witness the drill as it was taking place here in the board room and see the communication pieces with those that were onsite,” King said. “Part of the app was the mapping service that came with it. They came in and did 360 (degree) mapping of all of our schools, and that included every classroom, every closet, every workroom, so first responders can know what they’re walking into before they go in.”
He said $40,000 in state funding was provided in 2018-19 for SROs, and an additional $175,000 was included in the 2019-20 budget.
In addition, $109,000 in one-time funding was included for video surveillance camera upgrades and $60,000 for “perimeter security additions” at individual schools.
“You’ll start seeing these at some of the schools as they’re being installed,” King said. “Concrete physical barriers. Some are receiving the ball-type barriers like you see when you go in at Target. Some are getting the pole barriers. We allocated that to individual schools based on their school security site assessment.”
He said exterior door upgrades, using electronic strike plate technology, should be complete at all schools by March.
Upcoming projects include installation of cell phone boosters in some schools with poor reception, a potential web monitoring service, and the construction of a secure entry vestibule at Cookeville High School.
“When you come in the main entryway, it would push visitors to the office before they could gain access to the school,” he said.
School board chair Dawn Fry said, “It’s important to note all those things. I want the public to know that (we’re) working every month, and we’re still trying to maintain an environment that’s a school environment.”