“Wonderful partners to the world of education”

County schools eye increased safety for upcoming year

Published in Jan. 14, 2015 issue

Additional cameras, as well as upgrades to existing systems, will be added to Washington County school campuses to further secure the schools and keep students safe.

The Washington County Board of Education approved monies for an additional 25 to 30 exterior cameras, as well as upgrading the existing 500 camera systems at its meeting last week. The money, $30,000 for additional cameras and $108,000 to upgrade existing cameras, was taken from the remaining safety money funds provided by the county commission. The county commission provided a total of $500,000.

The upgrades are a part of a security assessment study done with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the FBI and U.S. Marshal.

“They performed a systemwide security assessment for us a couple of years ago and made some recommendations,” Director of Schools Ron Dykes said.

The monies provided by the county commission helped to begin the implementation of those recommendations.

The upgrades will help bring the camera systems to a higher standard with increased camera resolution, greater ability for the camera to pan, tilt and zoom, as well as provide digital images. The surveillance capabilities, Dykes said, are also now remote.

“The patrol cars can literally log into the system, and they can see the activities in the schools remotely,” Dykes said.

The approved funds will also allow the purchase of additional cameras for the school campuses. Some of the cameras will be added to certain buildings where there are blind spots. Others will be added to longer hallways to shorten the camera views, as well as at some entrances and exits of the campuses.

“We continue to investigate and try to keep our buildings and campuses secure and our students as safe as possible,” Dykes said.

In addition to the camera systems, all Washington County schools have a priority access entry system to enter a campus. Dykes said if an individual goes to any of the WCDE buildings, schools in particular, there is a two-way communication before they can enter the building.

“You must buzz in now before you are allowed entry,” he said.

Other security enhancements include increased fencing, additional vehicle barriers, window tinting and additional security measures for the school buses. Dykes said each school bus has a GPS system, so its movement and behavior can be monitored throughout the day. All bus drivers also have cell phones in case of an emergency.

Safety will also be increased with the presence of School Resource Officers.

Dykes said by the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Washington County Schools will have 12 School Resource Officers, which are all full-time. He said in addition, they have two supervisors who often fill in when needed.

Dykes said six officers are stationed at a particular school full-time, while the other six rotate between schools.

“All schools are covered daily,” he said.

Three new SROs were implemented this school year in a staggered process. Dykes said two of the SROs have come on board already, and the third should be in place in a matter of weeks.

“That is due to the cooperation that we have with the sheriff’s office and willingness of the county commission to also understand the need to increase safety to this level,” he said. “We are very appreciative of the funding provided by the county commission, and the working relationship with the sheriff’s office is quite exceptional. They are wonderful partners to the world of education.”

Dykes said the sheriff’s office essentially stops their world when they call to provide assistance. He said the school system has also engaged in such proactive activities as armed intruder training with the sheriff’s office.

“Our faculty has gone through three sessions of that over the last year and a half,” Dykes said. “We try to increase not only vigilance, but awareness and skills to better protect our children with the worst case scenario (that could) happen.”

 

New route = success

Today has been an incredible day so far.

I woke up and lazily began my day. While sitting at my desk writing an article, I received a surprise phone call from Jason. He was calling to ask me out to lunch, well an early lunch, during his break. Unfortunately the time he was going on break was the same time I had an interview set up for the Herald & Tribune. What are the chances? I hated to decline his sweet offer, especially since I have not seen much of him since he started working two jobs Tuesday.

After we said goodbye, I sent him a text telling him I wish I didn’t have an interview, would have loved to see him, and thanks for the call. I love his reply, “It will be alright. I just need to center myself and hanging with you does that.”

That simple reply still has me smiling. It definitely brightened my day.

A couple minutes later I interviewed country singer Suzy Bogguss for the International Storytelling Festival, which is held in Jonesborough, Tennessee. It’s always interesting to interview artistic people and see just how their career had begun.

After we got off the phone, I was now on a new natural high from a great interview. So, I got dressed in my running clothes and Lucy and I headed to the Greenbelt.

Today we changed up our routine. Instead of going our usual route, I decided we would head right instead of left from the Petsmart parking area. What a great idea. We ran 2.54 miles today, our longest run so far this week.

At about half way through I decided to give Lucy a small break, so she could enjoy the outdoors too, puppy style. We headed down towards the water, where she sniffed and explored the new territory.

20140919_114810I love watching her check out a new area.

20140919_114305She never stands still for long, as a new scent takes her on a different little trail.

Today, the weather was absoltely perfect. It was in the mid 70s, instead of 56 degrees like yesterday, and the sun was out. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. That I have missed. It has been so overcast lately that I was starting to miss the sun.

20140919_114151The best part about our route today is it is far less traveled. We passed maybe a half of a dozen people, some on bikes, others walking. When we head in the other direction there are always a ton of people. Although everyone is friendly for the most part, it’s nice to enjoy the path, just Lucy and I.

20140919_114655So this is where Lucy and I stopped and enjoyed a little bit of nature in the middle of our run. Why rush a good thing, when you can stop and enjoy the view? I know Lucy is capable of running 2 miles, probably more, without stopping, but I still don’t want to push her too hard. She still is, after all, a puppy.

So far this week we have ran four days, 9.2 miles. Our mile marker to beat for the week is 10.1. Looks like we will be heading back to the Greenbelt for another run tomorrow.