Changes at A.L. Brown meant to improve safety

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 31, 2014

KANNAPOLIS — A.L. Brown High School is making changes to improve safety, privacy, efficiency and parking.
Principal Kevin Garay said the school is relocating the main administrative offices and visitor entrance “for both safety and convenience.”
The changes will close the central area of campus to visitors and parents and secure it for staff and students.
It will “funnel visitor and parent traffic into one area that will be secured,” Garay said.
“Fortunately, there wasn’t an event that spurred this,” Garay said.
Instead, the school decided to make the changes as a result of a threat assessment the Kannapolis Police Department conducted last May.
According to Garay, the assessment looked at how much accessibility people other than students and school staff have to areas of campus.
The police department suggested closing off the center of campus to traffic and adding gates around an outdoor eating area attached to the cafeteria.
With the school’s current setup, parents and visitors follow the “same pattern and traffic flow as students,” Garay explained.
“During class change, for example, it’s an open campus with a center courtyard area — parents and visitors could essentially be in the center of campus,” he said.
The total cost of the project, including construction and furnishing the new space, is estimated between $70,000 and $80,000 and will be paid for with local capital money.
Because most of the changes involve switching pre-existing offices, however, Garay explained that the school “didn’t have to buy a whole lot” of new furniture.
The school is using a wing completed two and a half years ago that was supposed to house a school-based health center and an English as a second language welcome center. However, A.L. Brown had to abandon plans for the health center due to budget constraints.
Perhaps the biggest change is that the parent and visitor entrance will be moved from the entrance upstairs on A.L. Brown Drive to a downstairs entrance on East First Street.
Students late to school will also enter through the new entrance.
Parents and visitors will be required to enter through an electronically controlled access door, allowing school employees to determine who enters the building.
That’s a trend schools across the nation have followed, Garay said.
There will also be a separate door for deliveries.
The move will streamline parking and cut down on confusion, as well.
“I think the convenience aspect is just as important,” he said.
Visitors currently park in a portion of the staff parking lot off A.L. Brown Drive. The new lot will be conveniently located in front of the entrance, just off East First Street. According to Garay, the new parking lot could double or triple the amount of parking spots for visitors.
A.L. Brown Drive will be closed to all traffic, except buses, during the school day.
Student parking, pick-up and drop-off procedures will stay the same.
The new door enters into the school’s new front desk area and administrative offices, which is outfitted with separate seating and waiting areas for students and parents and visitors.
“Privacy is a challenge,” Garay said.
Visitors who need to leave the administrative office area to visit a classroom, cafeteria or student services will be escorted by a staff member or administrator.
Garay thinks the new arrangement will “keep it more professional.”
The move also lumps student services together in one central location. The school nurse, school resource officer, a rotating administrator, English as a second language welcome center and social worker will join the school’s guidance department upstairs in the repurposed space that used to be the school’s administrative offices.
The school began construction at the beginning of January. Garay said the project should be completed in mid- to late-February.
“We hope to be completely moved and completely transitioned by March 1,” Garay said.
Garay conducted staff tours of the new entrance and office areas Monday, and students will be able to tour the space early next week. Parents will have an opportunity to walk through the area during an open house Feb. 25.