School system hosts parent information sessions, launches committee to address safety
The Rowan-Salisbury School System will host the first of a two-part parent information series called “Keeping Our Children Safe” Thursday.
The series comes in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., school.
“It’s important that we reassure parents (with) all the efforts that we either have in place or plan to have in place to ensure the safety and well-being of their students, and to let them know we are not taking the recent developments lightly,” said Dr. Richard Miller, chairman of the Board of Education.
“We need to show that we’re doing everything possible to guarantee the safety of our students.”
The first session, to be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Salisbury Civic Center, will focus on bullying.
District Court Judge Beth Dixon will provide the keynote address, followed by a panel of community experts that include a local professional, a non-profit social worker and a law enforcement officer.
The second session will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at Carson High School. It will focus on safety on school campuses.
Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten will provide information to parents about safety practiced in schools from lockdown procedures to building security. Detailed plans for this event are still being finalized.
The series is part of the district’s “Parents Matter” program, designed in a continuing effort to stay connected with parents. Child care will be provided during both sessions for pre-kindergarten through fifth-graders.
School board member Josh Wagner said the sessions should help quell concerns about school safety.
“We need to explain exactly what goes on and what the plans are in a crisis situation and if people have questions, I think we need to answer them in person,” he said.
Wagner urges parents to attend the sessions.
“I think unfortunately in this case, the concern will die down if nothing happens again, and hopefully it won’t ... People tend to forget,” he said. “I think we need a lot higher rate of participation from everybody. This is something that everybody should find vitally important.”
School safety committee
The district has also created a school safety committee to actively address concerns about safety.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom convened a meeting of the committee, made up of principals, law enforcement officials and district administrators last week to look at the district current policies and procedures in addition to security of school buildings.
“Our priority is to make sure that we are doing everything that we possibly can to make our schools a safe learning environment for all of our students and employees,” Grissom said in a press release. “I cannot give enough praise to what is already being accomplished by our law enforcement officers that continue to play a valuable and very visible role in keeping our children safe.”
The objective of the committee is to look at a broad range of concerns including:
• Protocol procedures for school lockdowns,
• School resource officers at the elementary and middle school levels,
• Lighting around school buildings,
• Public access to buildings,
• Replacement windows,
• Camera systems,
• Front office coverage,
• Use of social media as a positive outreach and
• Visitor policies.
“We know that there are safety issues in our schools that need to be more consistent across the district,” Grissom said. “One of the goals of this committee is to identify those areas and make recommendations.”
The committee was divided into subcommittees in order to thoroughly research and make recommendations. A future meeting has been scheduled to receive and review these reports.
Miller said people have asked if the school system has enough appropriately trained personnel to provided the protection needed each day.
“I think that’s going to be put out there,” he said. “What’s appropriate, what’s enough to guarantee the health and safety of our students, but not enough to cause hysteria.”
Miller said intercom systems at all school have been another recurring suggestion he’s heard.
“Do we need to invest in intercom systems so there is no longer an open front door?” Miller said. “Access to building and additional law enforcement presence on campus are the two main things that I’ve been asked about.”
Wagner said he hasn’t heard specific suggestions about what to do in terms of safety, but people have raised concerns.
“Hopefully, most people will agree that nothing can be done overnight,” he said. “It’s important to get together to talk to parents and get their input and feedback ... I don’t think there’s a lot that can be done tangibly until we get together and talk about it.”
Wagner said he’s open to suggestions, but realizes certain economic limitations.
“The problem we face now is everything is tied to a dollar,” he said.
Miller said it’s important for parents to understand the school system already has a good track record for handling threats to safety.
“I do believe we’ve done a pretty reputable job,” he said. “Let’s not have a knee-jerk reaction that is more detrimental to learning than helpful.”
A full report from the school safety committee will be presented during the Jan. 28 Board of Education meeting.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.