Preparedness

Kentucky Safety Team Assesses Security at Two Daviess County Schools

The teams examine external security, child management and supervision, school entry policies and emergency plans, as well as look for potential facility issues that could create a security risk.

by James Mayse, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. / November 28, 2018

(TNS) — A team of officials with the Kentucky Center for School Safety visited Country Heights Elementary on Kentucky 54 on Tuesday, while a second team visited Sorgho Elementary School.

The teams were there by invitation to look for any potential security issues in the way the schools do business.

"I've been to Daviess County a lot," said Ed McCaw, a former school principal in Lexington and a member of the team that visited Country Heights Elementary. The group comes to the county district each year to review two schools, he said.

"Daviess County has been very interested in our services," McCaw said, and the organization also conducts free security audits for schools in the Owensboro district.

"This is a wonderfully safe school," McCaw said of Country Heights. "A lot of the things we look for are done so well here."

Lora Wimsatt, public information officer for Daviess County Public Schools, said Sorgho Elementary officials were also told the team that visited there were impressed with the security procedures in place.

Damon Fleming, director of student services for DCPS, said the Center for School Safety conducts the facility assessments at no cost to school districts.

"It's always good to have an outside team (and) another set of eyes" review a school for security issues, he said.

Fleming also conducts school safety assessments for the center, but not for Daviess County schools.

The teams examine external security, child management and supervision, school entry policies and emergency plans, as well as look for potential facility issues that could create a security risk.

"You'll interview staff members, students and parents" to see if they have any concerns, Fleming said.

McCaw said a survey is sent to parents and staff members prior to the visit to get their views on the school's security.

"When we walk into a building, probably the first thing we look for is the visitor procedures" and how visitors are managed, McCaw said. Attitudes toward features such as locked main entrances have changed over the years, he said.

"Think about the 1950s when you had this kind of entrance, (people would have said), 'You have a prison here,' " McCaw said.

Today, however, parents are appreciative of added security features at schools, he said.

After the assessment, the team will prepare a report with recommended changes, as well as commend the school and district on what is done well. The issue of school safety has evolved over the years, and plans have adapted after incidents of school violence.

"It has evolved a lot, and we've tried to stay on top of it," McCaw said. "We've tried to learn from the tragedies." Because of Sandy Hook, for example, it's now standard procedure for teachers to keep classroom doors shut and locked, and after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, some schools are re-evaluating how they respond to fire alarms, he said.

McCaw said he has been impressed by DCPS' security procedures.

"Daviess County is really a state leader in school security ..." McCaw said.

Fleming said the teams' final reports will be presented to the school board, to the principals and to the site-based development councils for action.

"If there are areas where they need to improve, we will definitely make those improvements," Fleming said. "Our plan moving forward is to ask them to come back every year and rotate around" to all county schools, he said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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