School board, principals discuss safety concerns across district
STANFORD – School board members heard from each Lincoln County school principal last Thursday about the biggest safety concerns they have for campuses across the district.
Superintendent Michael Rowe opened the discussion during the special-called meeting and invited each principal to share a list of safety priorities for their campus.
“We know we have a tax that we hope will pass through, and part of that tax, I’d like to talk to the board about, is investing that money in school safety, safety for each of our schools, and we’ll also talk about bus safety as a part of this,” Rowe said.
After speaking with Waynesburg’s School Safety and Threat Assessment team, as well as faculty, Principal Amy Rigsby said upgrading security cameras was one of the suggestions the group had for better safety.
“If anything happens on our campus, when we go to zoom in the pixels are all distorted, so we can’t really get a clear picture,” Rigsby said. “This has been something I’ve struggled with the past two years and had the Sheriff’s Department down just last week trying to identify a perpetrator for a crime that was committed on campus after hours, and this was an issue we had with identifying who that was.”
Rigsby also suggested linking the security camera system to the police department.
An updated intercom system was also suggested.
“The intercom system we currently use is coming through the phones so if, for whatever reason, that volume is turned down or if they’re out in the hallway, sometimes it’s very hard to hear if something is going on,” she said.
A school resource officer was among the suggestions, as well. Rigsby said due to Waynesburg’s location, the response time for emergency services can be 10 to 20 minutes.
“That’s a legit concern, along with other issues that we’ve had, where we’ve had other people on campus that shouldn’t be on campus, and that leaves me to take care of that…I can hold my own but I would prefer not to put myself or anyone else in danger and have someone there that can actually help and is law enforcement,” she said.
A fence around the playground would also help with campus safety, Rigsby said.
As of now, Rigsby said the public can access the playground and walk into the area where students are playing and it has been an issue for campus security.
Crab Orchard Elementary
Principal Justin Abbott made several suggestions to improve safety on Crab Orchard’s campus, including mending or replacing the fence on the north end of the campus that borders an apartment complex.
“There are gaps in the fence and things like that. There was an incident last spring where someone wandered on the campus from those apartments and we don’t know what intentions they had but they came up on the steps, knocked on the door and turned away. They were later apprehended,” Abbott said.
Signage indicating areas as “school property” was also something Abbott said would help with security.
Replacing worn door jams and several locks throughout the school were among the other suggestions Abbott made, as well as a more uniform way to cover windows and doors during a lock-down and updating security cameras for a clearer picture.
The location of Crab Orchard’s playground is another concern, Abbott said.
“There’s a three-foot buffer of grass before you get to the sidewalk that’s right outside the school. This connects the sidewalk to the adjacent apartments that are next door. There’s a lot of foot traffic right there and our teachers have expressed to me there are people who walk down that street at all hours of the day and our kids are out there playing. Some of them stop and try to interact,” he said. “I know that’s a hard ask, but it would be really nice if we could relocate that playground somewhere.”
Several security measures have already been improved at Hustonville Elementary, according to Principal Jeff Craiger, thanks to a visit from the Kentucky Center for School Safety over the summer.
The school will also undergo a security audit Oct. 15 to make sure the physical building, as well as the school’s policies and procedures, are efficient.
Beyond the security measures the school has already addressed, Craiger said several double doors need to be replaced and locks across the building need to be more consistent.
“The classroom doors, (there’s) probably four or five different varieties of locks on the doors in the building,” he said. “I’d like to see some consistency in that.”
There are several windows and doors across Stanford Elementary that Principal James Carrier said need film coverings to obstruct outside view.
“So that we can see out but outsiders can’t see in,” he said. “We have lots of those areas: our cafeteria, FRC (family resource center), our library, garden area and our hallway doors, that we would like covered.”
Signage for the car loop, updated security cameras and visitor check-in system and improved cell service in areas of the school were all on the list of possible security improvements, Carrier said.
A wind screen around the outdoor playground is something that teachers and staff agree would be beneficial to campus security, he said.
Assistant Principal Julie Duncan expanded on the suggestion.
“Our playground, like some of these others are mentioning, is right next to our car riders,” Duncan said. “Our Stanford Police Department has been wonderful this year to help keep folks out of that loop. In the past, they’ve been able to come right by where those kids are. When they were parked right there they could see right into the playground and we had lots of folks coming over and talking to kids. We don’t know what their intent is and we don’t feel like that’s safe.”
A “wind screen” or visual barrier that blocks the outside view in but not the inside view out would increase security on the playground, Duncan said.
Carrier also suggested replacing the farm gates on the car loop with chain link, locked gates.
Like many of the other elementary schools, Highland is also in need of one-way window film, specifically for the library and front building windows, according to Principal Suzanne Montgomery.
“Our library is probably the nicest room in our building and when you’re in there, it’s like a fish bowl. You can see in and all around. There are no window coverings on the library. It’s the most beautiful place in the world looking out over the hill when it snows, but everybody can see in as well,” she said.
Highland staff also would like to see the front entrance door replaced with a security window.
“Once you get in the front door, and you’re granted access to the office, you have access to the building,” Montgomery said. “So we would like to have a security window to replace the door in the main office so that we can check people in and out better.”
An updated visitor check-in and check-out system is also needed at the school, she said.
Consistent door locks on classrooms and key badges for staff to enter the building were also among Montgomery’s suggestions for better school security.
Communication is the biggest concern when it comes to safety and security at LCMS, according to Principal Stacy Story.
“We’ve got two different systems put in one school building,” she said. “I understand we have two wings now, but the school is still trying to function as it has in the past. In order for me to call the other wing from my office I have to literally call an outside line, call the secretary and then ask for any room I need,” Story said. “Or, my other option, is to call on the radio for the other 25 radios to hear who exactly I’m asking for or what I need.”
Since the Lloyd-McGuffey Sixth Grade Center is now considered a second wing to LCMS, Story said there are several things that could be done to shore up security, including shutting off the entrance to the McGuffey building.
“I’ve got two secretaries, two wings, two check out systems, two entrances where all kinds of public people are coming and going and it is totally a major student safety concern,” she said.
Story said a student was checked out recently and school staff had no knowledge of it.
“People should be coming in one entrance, checking students in and out of one entrance,” she said.
Locks across the two buildings need to be uniform, as well, she added.
“My recommendation would be to switch over to key cards. That would be the most safe,” Story said. “We have an unreal amount of master keys floating around in this community. Everybody has a key to our facilities.”
Enclosing the two buildings would be a major improvement to the entire campus, she said.
“Major safety concern, students traveling back and forth in between those buildings,” she said. “They had been traveling in the front and I stopped all of that. Students are only allowed to travel between the two (buildings) under the breezeway. That’s as safe as we can get it right now.”
Story’s proposal was to build an office suite in between the two buildings, so there would be a walkway or hallway connecting them.
Several of the suggestions to improve security at LCHS came from the 2008 and 2015 safety audits.
Among those suggestions were replacing several exterior doors and installing a more consistent entry system, since many master keys are in former employee hands, as other principals had mentioned.
Enclosing the front lobby was also mentioned.
“We have added the exterior doors, thank you so much, those are great. But once you gain entrance to the lobby of the high school, you’re there,” Godbey said. “You’ve got parents talking to kids and conversations going on and things being overheard. I would love to close that whole front lobby off with doors so that when people come in they’re just in that front lobby and can’t get to kids without being buzzed to the other part of the building.”
Godbey also suggested coming up with a way to secure the entire campus during lock-down.
“If we needed to go to a campus lock-down, the grounds to the high school, we have no way of securing the campus to keep folks off if we needed to,” he said. “We need gates and things we can lock to keep folks off. I know it’s difficult with the middle school building being there as well but it’s a real security issue.”
Rowe chimed in and asked if placing a guard booth at the campus entrance would help. Godbey said he believed it would.
Godbey said he would like to see a better plan for traffic flow at the high school, as well as remove the wall at the front of the school to make more space for parking and for buses. Sidewalks on campus need repair, he added, and security cameras need to be updated.
Board members respond
Board members unanimously agreed there is a need for uniformity and consistency across the district when it comes to doors, locks, and visitor check-in systems.
LCHS has implemented the Raptor School Security Systems, which has proven to be a successful, and even affordable, security measure, according to school administration.
LCHS Principal Michael Godbey praised the system, which was implemented at the school as a pilot program about a year ago, he said.
Godbey said the system scans driver’s licenses and immediately checks them through the national sex offender database.
“If you happen to be a sexual offender, that would pop up on the screen and alert whoever is checking you in. It scans all 50 states and it’s updated nightly. It’s really good for security,” he said.
The system sends text message alerts to the principal, assistant principals and school resource officer, as well.
“(It’s) very well worth the money. I would highly recommend it,” Godbey said.
Board Member Win Smith said the Kentucky Center for School Safety will supply the district with consultants at no charge to help prioritize safety and security needs, as well as identify traffic flow concerns.
“It’s a free resource,” he said.
Board Member Ethan Jones said he learned a lot from the discussion.
“It sounds like we have a lot of common concerns for all of these buildings because they have a lot of the same problems because they’re old. Some of them are getting very old,” Jones said. “We’ve talked about this tax, the reasons that I feel we have gone through this exercise and come to this point is, we need to build some elementary schools. That’s what I think we all know.”
All of the schools need to be made safer, he added.
“Those things that we have to do by law we should address first,” Jones said.
Alan Hubble said he supports fixing all of the doors and implementing a key card system for teachers and faculty to enter and exit buildings. He also said, if affordable, he supports the Raptor security system for all of the schools
“That way we know who’s in the building at what time of day,” Hubble said.
Rowe said he will contact the Kentucky Center for School Safety and work on putting some monetary figures together for some of the main issues discussed.