In the wake of the massacre of 26 children and teachers in Newtown, Conn., last week, both the Fayette County School System and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office on Monday issued statements updating parents on the safety measures and precautions being taken locally.
”The Fayette County Public School System is deeply saddened by the horrific events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday,” said Fayette County School System spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach.
“We want to assure our families and community that there are safety and security procedures in place to protect students and staff. Our school system was the first in Georgia to create an emergency preparedness plan following the events of Columbine [Colo.]. The plan covers any potential emergency that might happen, including an intrusion,” Berry-Dreisbach said.
“We will meet with the county’s emergency team this week to go over the plan to see if there are any areas we need to strengthen,” she said. “Parents can view the plan on the school system’s website, www.fcboe.org (click on ‘system departments’ on the left and then select ‘safety and discipline’).”
Berry-Dreisbach said Fayette County students will go about their regular routines this week. Each school has counselors on staff ready to help students who are having difficulties. All buildings will be on heightened alert, meaning all exterior doors remained locked with the exception of the front door, and staff maintains close supervision of students in all locations, she said.
The school system is using E-SPLOST funds to provide additional security measures at all campuses, said Berry-Dreisbach, noting that work is nearly complete for remote controlled access to all elementary school buildings. The equipment should be installed and working at all elementary schools by the end of January.
Middle and high schools are receiving upgraded security cameras and resource officers are on site at each middle and high school, said Berry-Dreisbach. And the school system’s Infinite Campus allows schools to call parents, she added.
School system Director of Safety, Discipline and Athletics Steve Greene on Monday said the school system has redundant systems in place, noting that emergency preparedness plans are being reviewed with county emergency management officials. Greene reiterated that the card-based school access control system is being put in place and is expected to be fully functional in January.
Representatives from law enforcement on Monday visited each of Fayette County’s schools.
“The men and women of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office are keeping the 26 individuals who lost their lives, the survivors, and their families in our thoughts and prayers,” said Field Operations Division Director Bryan Woodie of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.
“The sheriff’s office wants to reassure our community that the Fayette County Board of Education, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the Fayetteville Police Department, the Peachtree City Police Department, and the Tyrone Police Department have worked and continue to work closely to protect our children and their educators from harm,” Woodie said.
“The board of education, in concert with law enforcement, has developed policies and procedures to address these types of situations. We believe these procedures to be the best defense against such unimaginable situations,” he said.
Woodie said every Fayette County high school and middle school has an assigned school resource officer, each of whom is armed and has arrest powers.
“We are increasing our patrols at our elementary schools not because of any threat towards a school but simply as a means of reassuring parents, staff and ultimately our children that they are now and will be safe from harm. We want to stress that there are no known threats or potential threats directed toward any school in Fayette County,” Woodie said.
”Although there are no known threats toward any school in Fayette County, continued vigilance is always the best policy. Should any of our citizens become aware of any act or activity they feel is suspicious with regard to a school or any other person or location in Fayette County, please call the Fayette County Emergency Communications Center by dialing 911 or calling 770-461-4357 (HELP) right away.”
In general, each plan involves the designation of a crisis management team; development of evacuation, shelter-in-place and lockdown procedures; preparation of a portable critical response kit that contains key information and supplies; designation of one or more evacuation sites; provisions for updating the plan; and resources for help before, during, and after an event. All emergency preparedness plans have been reviewed within the last 12 months and have been approved by Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA).
The Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) Emergency/Crisis plans were the first to be approved by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency in the state and are used as a model throughout Georgia.
Every school has specific plans for the reunification of parents and their children in the event of a major emergency. School psychologists, social workers and counselors, trained in crisis intervention, are available to students and their families in all emergencies.
To communicate with parents and families in an emergency the school system will use the Infinite Campus system to call parents along with local radio and television stations and local newspapers, as well as Comcast Channel 24 and the school system’s website www.fcboe.org.