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Lawmakers to stress school security
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Warren County schools are currently being evaluated to determine if any are in need of immediate upgrades to bolster security.
“This is something we’ve been looking at since October, way before the Sandy Hook incident,” said Director of Schools Bobby Cox referring to the school massacre in Connecticut where 20 students were killed. “We’re doing threat assessments at all of our schools to see if there’s anything we can do in the way of camera systems or buzzers on doors so visitors have to be buzzed in. We’re looking at entry points and exits points and even the hardware we have on our doors. I hope to have something ready for our School Board by the next meeting.”
Building and Grounds director Donnie Caldwell and school resource officer Bobby Pennington are in the process of visiting every school. They were at WCMS on Monday and West Elementary yesterday.
“We’re trying to look at ways to put in extra layers of protection to make it safer,” said Caldwell. “There are a lot of things we could do, but it all comes down to funding.”
While many school districts are looking at adding more school resource officers (SROs), Cox said he first wants to focus on what can be done to make the schools more secure.
“Our buildings are our first line of defense,” said Cox. “We want to make it as difficult as possible for someone who wants to come in and cause trouble. We don’t want a school to become a prison with bars on the windows, but we want to do the best we can to keep everybody safe.”
Several Tennessee school systems are looking at additional SROs as their first course of action. Rutherford County is considering a plan to add 13 SROs to place an officer in every school. After initial start-up costs, the plan is estimated to cost about $687,000 annually.
Warren County currently has five SROs. Three are assigned to WCHS with one at WCMS. Pennington serves as a floating SRO who serves the county’s other schools as needed.
Cox said if one of the SROs at the high school is assigned to Hickory Creek, and Pennington is assigned a permanent school, Warren County is six officers away from an SRO at every school, including Warren Academy. If an SRO isn’t deemed necessary at Warren Academy, the school system is five officers away.
“Funding for those positions probably won’t be available until next year,” said Cox. “We’re trying to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can which is why we’re looking at out buildings right now.”
The next School Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at the central office.