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How student safety may get better at Gainesville schools
Officials, public safety agencies working together to address needs
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Adrian Niles, chief operations officer for Gainesville City Schools, discusses new safety and security initiatives at local schools with the Board of Education on Monday, July 16, 2018. - photo by Joshua Silavent

Gainesville school officials are working closely with local police, fire and emergency responders to implement more frequent evacuation drills and conduct full evaluations of site-specific safety needs for schools.

These initiatives come on the heels of meetings between agency leaders in recent weeks and were presented to the city school system’s Board of Education on Monday, July 16, by Adrian Niles, chief operations officer for Gainesville City Schools.

Other recommendations the board may pursue include adding safety-related signage, providing more training for school resource officers and continually revising emergency preparedness plans.

The new school year begins Aug. 8 and Niles said he expects these meetings to continue as officials prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Niles recently attended a conference in Columbus hosted by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency that, he said, showed him a renewed commitment throughout the state to educate and train school leaders for active-shooter and other emergency situations.

5 planned safety improvements

  • Monthly fire and evacuation drills
  • Full campus evacuation drills
  • Campus safety evaluations
  • Campus safety signage
  • New safety protocols

Gainesville is already upgrading its security cameras with higher definition imagery, and the school system will receive about $81,000 in grant funding from the state Department of Education to help pay for security improvements at facilities.

Still, it’s also a drop in the bucket for ongoing needs, officials said.

Board member Heather Ramsey asked if the school system was eligible to “receive more funds every year?”

Not at this time.

“But it will not be a problem to spend …” Superintendent Jeremy Williams said.

“I know,” Ramsey responded. “Can we do this every year?”

Board member Sammy Smith asked whether older schools and facilities would likely have added security needs and require more upgrades.

Niles said officials would have to look at retrofitting some of these schools with the latest security technology.

“As we continue to look at things our (school system) might need … we can look at increasing our card reader access, our lockdown and safety drills.” Niles added.

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