Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New group studies school safety
A new group in King George County will look at ways to improve school safety and security.
Sheriff Steve Dempsey has been meeting with County Administrator Travis Quesenberry and School Superintendent Robert Benson about the idea. The group would include those men, as well as principals, chairmen of the Board of Supervisors and School Board and a PTA officer from each school.
Dempsey said he believes more can be done than providing a school resource officer at each facility. He wants the group to look at the security of interior and exterior doors, the primary entrance to each school and building-wide monitoring and communication.
All the supervisors supported the group, which will bring its findings back to them.
“I think it’s what we need to do, to be proactive and take a look at the facility aspect of it and not just a person in the building,” said Supervisor Joe Grzeika.
Here’s a story Free Lance-Star reporter Lindley Estes wrote on Jan. 30, 2013, about other safety efforts the school system is considering:
King George County schools are considering hiring greeters to attend the entrances of five schools to quell fears about school safety that arose after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., last month.
The greeters would be temporary through the end of the current school year, according to Superintendent Robert Benson. It would allow the district to engage further in a statewide dialogue about how to best protect students.
Benson presented the plan to the School Board on Monday and said, “I think it prudent to at least offer you an idea of how this would work.”
The greeters would be positioned at the main entrance of King George, Potomac and Sealston elementary schools; King George Middle School; and the School Board Office pre-school. These buildings do not have a way to channel visitors into the office before entering the school, like King George High School does.
Greeters would be expected to interact with people “as an ambassador of the school,” according to Benson’s plan. They would ensure the school’s check-in procedures are followed for each guest and prepare, distribute and collect credentials for guests.
Each greeter would be paid $65 per day for an estimated 80 work days remaining this school year. The total cost for the remainder of the year to hire these five employees would be $26,000.
The funds would come from existing savings in the personnel budget.
“I think it’s a great idea,” board member Rick Randall said. “But we need to make sure we control all alternative entrances.”
Benson said he is continuing to talk with Sheriff S.F. Dempsey of King George and an architectural firm about altering the entrances to the five schools so visitors do not have direct access to the school hallway.
Benson said a long-term fix would be to include these changes in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.
“This is not just a school proposal. It’s a county-championed proposal,” Benson said.
The board will take action on the school greeter proposal at the next regular business meeting Feb. 11.