Hall County Schools is looking to spend about $150,000 to improve safety in local elementary, middle and high schools, including a pilot program to add silent alarms at an undisclosed school.
Upgrading safety and sparing no expense is “nonnegotiable … in this day and age,” Superintendent Will Schofield told school board members during a meeting Monday, March 26.
The school district will also pour money into adding new security monitors at schools, as well as equipping resource officers with new, state-of-the-art stun guns.
The focus on school safety, while always a priority, school officials said, has ramped up in the wake of a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.
Hall County already applies significant financial resources to providing safety at local schools, from security cameras and active-shooter trainings to identification cards for entry; drug dogs and random searches; security vestibules for visitors to enter through; as well as counseling resources.
There are also school resource officers at each middle and high school in the county district. Additionally, a policy is no longer in place that once required officers to wait on backup before responding in a shooting incident.
The pilot program, which could be implemented within two weeks, will place silent alarms similar to what might be found in a courthouse or bank at various locations in one school that would allow administrators and faculty to call the “cavalry” should an active situation arise.
School officials said the alarm would connect the school with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the school district’s transportation unit so that buses that may be traveling to an active situation can be promptly diverted.
The pilot program would also include a desktop icon on computers accessible to all teachers that when double-clicked would alert school administrators and resource officers to a potential threat without calling the “cavalry” right away, school officials said.
If the pilot is successful, the program could be expanded and added to all schools in the district within a matter of six weeks, Schofield said.
But the “beta test” is critical to determine its effectiveness, Schofield said, adding that it’s important the location of the pilot program remain unnamed.
“Anybody would reasonably say you don’t hand out your playbook to individuals who may wish harm,” he added.
These steps and more are designed to “create just kind of an overwhelming (security) presence in and out of our schools on a daily basis,” Schofield said.