With the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., still a raw memory, the topic of school safety remains timely, particularly as the new school year approaches.
Both local school systems have implemented some changes. Hall County students and visitors in particular should notice the difference when walking through school doors in August.
“Each school in the county school system will have security doors,” said Sgt. Earl Roach, Hall County school system safety coordinator. “You have to be buzzed through.”
Visitors will check into the main office as they have always done. After checking in with a visitor management system, a person at the main desk will then buzz the visitor into the building. It’s been done at some schools previously, but now will be in all county schools.
“(School officials) just decided it would be best if every school had (security doors),” Roach said.
Roach also said deputies with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office are encouraged to maintain a presence around the schools. It’s not an official program, but it builds on the positive relationship the school system shares with the office.
Deputies are encouraged to park in a school lot when filling out reports, or to take advantage of a clean school restroom while on patrol.
“Stop in the school and just say hello,” Roach said. “Get yourself a coffee. That way, there’s always a car somewhere near the school.”
Elfreda Lakey with the Gainesville school system said there is nothing too different from last year’s security system at the city schools, but there are tentative plans to conduct a drill with the Gainesville Police Department in the fall.
“Only if we feel like it’s necessary,” she said.
All interior doors in Gainesville schools remain locked during class periods, she said. All doors leading in from outside are also locked, with only the main door to the office left open. A visitor must check in with the main office of each school, she said.
The key thing, she said, is that all classroom doors be locked, especially at the high school with its more open campus.
Safety drills with students are conducted on a monthly basis, and school system employees are currently in the process of ensuring the security cameras are operating.
Security cameras are also part of the Hall County safety plan, and are being checked and upgraded.