Technological advances are being used to improve safety throughout Wyoming County schools.
“We’re beefing up security in several areas,” emphasized Frank Blackwell, county schools superintendent.
“We continue to hear of these crazy things people are doing in and around schools across the globe. We’re doing everything we can do to protect our students,” he added.
From state-of-the-art cameras to panic buttons to improved communication methods, schools officials are exploring every possibility to increase student protection, Blackwell noted.
“We are again reviewing our crisis management plan to see where improvements may be made,” he said.
Those entering any school in the county should have to be “buzzed” into the building through the front door, Blackwell maintained.
All other entries should always be locked, he said.
“Of course, students should be buzzed in quickly and there are people who are known to someone in the office,” he said. “But, we want every person to have to be buzzed into the building.
“We want every teacher, even substitute teachers, to be able to lock their classroom in the event of an intruder,” Blackwell said.
He added that some classroom doors require a key to lock it and there should be a plan in place at every school that substitutes have access to those keys.
In some of the most gruesome school invasions, the murderers were able to enter classrooms, killing students and teachers at will.
“We have solid wood doors, or metal doors, in all our buildings. Locking the classroom doors can save lives,” Blackwell said.
“Every school will have two-way radios,” the superintendent said. “They will be able to contact the central office, a bus driver, sheriff’s department, or whoever they need to contact in case of a power outage.
“Some of our schools lose their phones if the power goes out. We’ve changed that. We want every school to have a phone that works in the event of a power outage.”
To that end, schools will also have cell phones. Outlying schools will get a booster so the cell phones will actually work, Blackwell said.
Also, every school will have a “land line” that works in the event of a power outage.
With a two-way radio, cell phone and a land line in addition to the existing phone systems, Blackwell believes school officials should be able to communicate in the event of any crisis.
“Just in case these are ever needed,” he emphasized. “We don’t want our schools cut off for any reason.”
Additional state-of-the-art cameras are also being installed on every bus and in every school, he said.
“We currently have cameras throughout the school system, but we want to add more cameras,” Blackwell said.
“Our buses will have cameras that show everything that goes on – in the back, in every seat – on that bus.
“These cameras will also photograph the license plates of passing cars, coming and going,” the superintendent emphasized. “A driver passes a bus with the stop lights flashing and that license plate is photographed.
“Cameras solve all kinds of problems and cameras prevent a lot of issues.
“For instance, one student accuses another student of starting a fight. We can review the recording and find out that the student who made the accusation actually threw the first punch, and it was unprovoked. We have the evidence,” he noted.
“We will be able to see what goes on in every seat on every bus – from the front to the very back seat. That will solve a lot of the problems we have on the buses.”
Also panic buttons are being installed throughout the school system.
“We want these silent panic buttons to be available in every building in the event an intruder gets inside. Someone, from numerous locations, in that building can push a button without the intruder knowing. Authorities can be on their way in a matter of minutes.
“We are trying to think of every situation that could arise in the school system. We want to make sure our students and our employees are safe,” Blackwell emphasized.
“These things may never be needed; hopefully, they won’t be,” he added. “But we want these security measures in place just in case. I believe it is better to be prepared.”