Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Will See Changes in Security Measures
Members of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School Board were briefed on the school system’s security measures Tuesday evening. They are looking at several ways to improve safety throughout the district.
It’s been nearly two weeks since a shooting involving two students occurred at Carver High School in Winston-Salem. One student was injured and the other was taken into custody and charged in the incident.
School officials and law enforcement officers are re-evaluating their safety plans in light of the shooting.
Carver High School was placed on lockdown for more than two hours after a shooting at the school on August 30. During the situation, school officials and law enforcement used a pre-stage crisis map to help organize the scene.
Carver is one of twelve schools in the district that has a mapping system in place. Daryl Walker, the Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, says the security tool will soon be available in every school in the district.
“We are about 20 percent finished with the mapping and it is basically an overview of the school that shows where we can strategically locate during an emergency situation, like where the ems and fire tucks can be located. Our plan is to be finished with this by December,” says Walker.
During the Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting on Tuesday evening, Walker presented the security measures followed during the shooting at Carver. He says one area that needs improvement throughout the district is radio communication. Since the event happened towards the end of the day, the batteries in the school radios were low. This caused some communication problems within Carver high school during the lockdown.
Walker says school officials are also looking at ways to place more security cameras throughout the district.
“All of our middle and high schools, which are about 29 schools, and eight of our elementary schools have cameras. We are putting in IP cameras through a $250,000 grant in four schools, so we are going to take the cameras out of those current schools and reallocate those to elementary schools. We will go from 8 to 18 cameras in our elementary schools, almost half way there,” says Walker.
Walker says school system officials are also making changes to the Connect 5 Lockdown Notification System, including adding parents to the network, so if an emergency situation occurs at their child’s school, they will notified even sooner.
Anne Petitjean, President of the Forsyth County Association of Educators, says most teachers feel safe in their classroom, but they want to see more consistency with carrying out new policies.
“So often the staff is left out of these decisions and to me that was a huge step in the right direction. If anybody knows about the holes in the system it is the staff, the custodians and the teachers. It is encouraging to see that the board is going to include them in on these decisions,” says Petijean.
Walker says the cost to fully implement all of the security measures discussed at the meeting is estimated between $1-million to $2-million.
School board members also talked about the possibility of applying for state and federal grants to help pay for more school resource officers. They plan to meet with the county commissioners to discuss possible funds for new radios and other equipment.
John Davenport Jr., vice chair of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Board of Education, says a county-wide bond referendum is expected to be placed on the ballot in 2016.
“If you are going to do it in a broad way, we will have to get the voters of Forsyth County involved because it is more than just two or three hundred thousand dollars it’s a few million dollars when you look at the entire package,” says Davenport.
During the meeting, the school board commended Carver high school Principal Ronald Travis and his staff for their preparedness and response to the shooting. Tim Wilson, the school resource officer who quickly responded to the shooting, was also recognized by the board for his heroic efforts during the incident.
The school board will meet again on October 8 to further discuss the security upgrades throughout the district.