Local schools getting safer

Leaders and staff for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are already pleased with many of the district’s new security enhancements, and are on track to have the new initiatives completed in all of the district’s 160 schools by August of this year.

The new security measures are part of a district-wide effort to keep Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ students safe. Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approved the comprehensive $19 million plan last spring – on the heels of school shootings in Chardon, Ohio, and Newtown, Conn. – giving CMS officials the go ahead to enhance security in all the district’s schools, including more controlled access to school buildings, more school cameras to better monitor school grounds and a new district-wide system to screen visitors.

The district implemented a student and staff ID badging system for all schools to start off the academic year, Susan Cody, a CMS building services project manager, said. That system was installed August 2013 before schools opened, although some schools are still working to get ID badges made for all students. Most district schools also now have electronic door locks, which will be accessible with staff ID badges, though some of the locks are still waiting to be activated. Cody said about 50 percent of schools have full activation of their door locks, and the district hopes to have the rest activated by the end of the
month.

All schools also have the new Lobby Guard visitor management system, Cody said. That installation was completed before winter break in elementary, middle and high schools. With that system, guests and visitors all are screened through the National Sex Offender Public Registry before given permission to leave a school’s front
office.

“That system immediately screens the person coming into the school, whether a volunteer, construction worker or whoever,” Cody said.

Currently, panic buttons also are being installed in all of the schools. As of Wednesday, Jan. 8, 115 schools had full installation of those buttons, and district leaders expect 100 percent completion by
Jan. 31.

“The good thing is that all of these systems are now consistent from one school to another. It’s the same across the board now,” Randy Hagler, CMS Police chief, said.

Hagler said the department, which gets calls from schools on a regular basis, already has heard positive feedback with the implemented updates. And Hagler said CMS staff and parents will be even more at ease once the new camera systems are installed this spring. CMS is still securing funding for security cameras, which will mostly be installed at elementary and middle school campuses starting in February, Cody said. High school campuses already have cameras installed. District leaders hope to have cameras installed at all 90 elementary schools and 22 middle schools by August, Cody said. That’s about 16 to 24 cameras per elementary school and 45 to 48 cameras per middle school depending on the school’s floor plan and the cost.

“We just wanted to get the biggest number we could for schools that didn’t have them,” Cody said.

Hagler said in planning the initiatives, the school district also communicated with larger partners like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Pineville Police Department, as well as other law enforcement throughout the county, to keep them in the loop. Communication with local law enforcement will help with response times in case of an emergency, Hagler said. Local law enforcement also will have access to school
cameras.

“It’s going to be a huge tool for all local law enforcement,” Hagler said. “When we get a panic alarm at Pineville Elementary, Pineville police officers will be responding. It’s going to make all of us more
efficient.”

 

 

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