News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS Sebring Police Department Cpl. Viviane Buck provides peace of mind and extra security Tuesday morning at the Kindergarten Learning Center in Sebring. Schools across Highlands County have extra law enforcement on campus after a school shooting last week in Connecticut.
published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Security increased at schools
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - Highlands County schools started the week off with a little more security for students, parents, employees and all individuals on the campus in the wake of Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton made a conscious effort to better serve the schools by implementing extra law enforcement on campuses throughout the county.
Monday morning, students couldn't help but notice the extra officers and deputies on campus.
"The sheriff chose to take a unit from road patrol and put them in each of the schools," HCSO Public Information Officer Nell Hays said.
"Today, there will be a meeting to discuss protocols and plans for schools. After that we will sit down with the schools' resource officers and discuss their protocols. We will make sure their plans are up to date and that the schools' protocols are in line with the sheriff's office's in the event something like that happens here," Hays explained.
Woodlawn Elementary School Principal Kaye Bowers spoke to a small group of parents Monday afternoon during the after-school pick ups on the campus.
"We are just trying to get a feel of the parents feelings about what has happened. We've been thinking, and not just since what happened last week but for about three years now, about changing the way in which children are picked up. I just want to get some feedback. How would you feel if we didn't allow you all to come up here to pick them up but made the policy that you all stay in your vehicles?" Bowers asked.
Parents concerns and issues with the proposed change ranged from understanding to dislike. One father explained his concern with the safety of the pick-up car line and that it's easier to exit his car and wait for his children at the pick-up site.
Though many of the parents agreed that the car line was more efficient, the consensus was that the parents enjoy seeing their children walk from their classrooms to the pick up site each afternoon.
Kindergarten Learning Center Dean of Students Rick Kogelschatz described how the school has been since the implementation of the law enforcement on campus.
"Yesterday we had one sheriff's deputy and two Sebring police officers on campus. Today I know we have one officer and a deputy has been here as well," Kogelschatz said.
Though many of the 5- and 6-year-olds that roam the halls of the KLC are not fully aware of the Sandy Hook tragedy, parents have been on edge over the past several days, most fearing for the safety of their students.
"The kids notice the police car, of course, but for the parents I've spoken to they feel it's very comforting. They are relieved that the community and law enforcement have shown concern and work to protect us. Every year we do a lockdown procedure with the kids; we just had ours in October. We will be doing another this year when we get back into school after the holiday break," Kogelschatz said. "We want to make sure these students are always safe."
Other schools in the district have also held procedural lockdowns since the week began. Cracker Trail Elementary School staff confirmed that a practice lockdown took place Monday afternoon.
"Mrs. McGowan and I went to every classroom and handed out lockdown procedures, reviewed the safety manual and procedures. We didn't have any students ask for any counseling; they know what's going on. It was hard to avoid it, but we haven't had one student visit the office or guidance counselor asking questions or anything," said principal Dr. Richard Demeri.
According to Demeri, Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger sent out several emails yesterday afternoon instructing school prinicpals to implement (if they hadn't already) a locked door policy across the campuses. Demeri also stated that Cracker Trail is currently looking into implementing a buzzer system for the school.
"We've had an outstanding presence from the sheriff's office. This morning as I was opening doors in the car line I saw one parent roll down her window and thank the deputy for being there. I've had calls from parents asking 'What are you doing to protect my child?' and I explain to them procedures and safety. They all appreciate it and are receptive to what the deputies and the schools are doing right now," Demeri said.
Thank you (by: DixieEcho - 12/21/2012)
Thank you to Sebring Police and Highland County Sheriff's Department for keeping our childen safe.
Security in Schools (by: starr - 12/19/2012)
Keep up the good work. I think visible uniformed officers inside and outside of the schools is a very good idea. It would be wonderful for these parents to see that every day.
Small Banner Ads