Elementary Schools in Forsyth County Will Get Big Security Uprades
Schools across the country have been re-evaluating their security measures since the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings last December, including the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System. But a school shooting at Carver High School in August prompted school officials and the board to take action immediately. As a result, parents, teachers and staff will see some big changes in 2014.
The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System will invest around $1.5 million in security upgrades over the next several months. The school board is using money set aside from the 2006 bond referendum to pay for the security improvements. Many of them are taking place in the district’s elementary schools.
For example, during the school day, visitors will no longer be able to walk directly into the building, unless they are buzzed in by a staff member.
“We did a pilot at 11 schools for a year and then our board approved to install them at all of our elementary schools. We are in the process now of ordering parts and changing doors and ordering the A-phone itself. Our hope is to have them installed by March first at all of our elementary schools,” says Daryl Walker, assistant superintendent of operations at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
The district is also experimenting with a badge swipe identification system for students. Walker says the PTA’s at Ward Elementary and Union Cross Elementary purchased equipment to test the program in their schools.
Currently, school officials are working with the Forsyth County Emergency Management Office and local police to create pre-stage crisis maps for every school in the district. The maps were used by first responders during the shooting at Carver High School. Walker says security cameras will be added to provide even more protection.
“There is a software package behind the camera that drives not only the mapping, but also the ability to visualize and see inside the building from a distance via an online web based portal that is password protected. We are going to install eight cameras in each elementary school. We will wire the buildings for 16 cameras, even though we can’t afford that many right now,” says Walker
School board members have also talked about the possibility of applying for state and federal grants to help pay for more school resource officers. But Walker says that likely won’t happen right now. That's because the grants would only cover two years. After that, Walker says the district would have to pick up the cost, something that isn’t in their budget.
Meanwhile, school district officials will continue to look at their policies, procedures and training opportunities. They are planning a mock shooting disaster this summer at Walkertown High School.