The Lakeland school board reviewed the district’s safety and security measures at the March 1 business meeting. Like many school districts across the U.S., Lakeland School System has once again scrutinized ways to keep students safer in the wake of the tragic Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell said LSS will conduct two additional intruder drills at both schools this year. Both the elementary and middle schools have also initiated reviews of safety and security protocols, as well as additional staff training.
Horrell also reviewed recent and past security improvements on both campuses. For the elementary school, the district has:
- Installed an additional eight security cameras and replaced one security camera to provide additional campus coverage
- Provided safety strips to all classrooms to make it easier and quicker to secure the door in lockdown situations
- Installed safety straps on the cafeteria and gym doors to make it easier and quicker to secure those doors too in lockdown situations
- Installed panic buttons in strategic locations in the school
- Completely refreshed security radios on campus
- Improved servicing of the school’s backup generator
- Installed two additional access card readers at ends of hallways at the suggestion of teachers to remove the need to prop doors open for building/bathroom access during recess
- Increased the presence of Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies at public events
- Made the early decision to hire substitute teachers directly to improve oversight of background checks and on-boarding (use of card access)
- Brought custodial services in-house to provide more stability and oversight of staffing
One slide in Horrell’s presentation stated that LES has consistently met all safety drill goals and requirements set by law, also noting, “We are researching options for providing armed security at Lakeland Elementary and will review this as an option.”
Horrell said additional security would be at an additional cost.
Another slide said, “We have consistently invested in safety and security measures since taking over operations of Lakeland Elementary in June of 2014, and LMPS (Lakeland Middle Preparatory School) was designed with student safety in mind.”
For the middle school, the district has:
- Designed the school with a secure main entrance
- Installed 56 cameras on the campus
- Signed a memorandum of understanding with the SCSO for a school resource officer
- Purchased a powerful generator that allows for maintenance of phones, the WiFi network and plenty of lighting
- Installed 12 proximity access card readers so that all entrances are protected
Horrell said the district also:
- Developed both schools’ emergency response plans in conjunction with the SCSO and the Department of Homeland Security
- Entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Juvenile Court for off-site education of students who are in custody, should that ever become necessary
- Certified both schools to use the RTI2B method of behavioral intervention
- Expanded the district’s number of mental health personnel from one to four within one year (That includes two guidance counselors, a facilitator of guidance and student services, and a social worker.)
- Conducts regular threat assessments (evaluation of statements or actions that raise concerns about the potential for self-harm or harm to others)
- Uses two systems (Securely and GoGuardian) to actively monitor what students post online and what they search for
- Follows mandatory reporting practices with the Department of Children’s Services and the SCSO
- Ensures that CPR and first-aid training are widely used in the system and supervised by the school health coordinator
“Whatever causes these things to happen, we know that mental health is one part of that, at least,” Horrell said.
He explained that there have been 82 threat assessments so far this school year between the district’s two schools. Rather than having parents worry about that number, he suggested that 82 threat assessments sounds like a safe school that is alert and responsive.
The district’s approach tightens the campuses’ physical security and works to foster a student population that is mentally healthy and resilient. Horrell’s final slide stated, “We believe that culture matters, and we take school culture seriously.”
Horrell added, “We want students to feel secure, we want them to feel loved, we want them to feel like they’re supported, we want them to feel like there are adults they can talk to if they need to. And we do know that all of those things matter, and they make a difference.”
In a related action, the board authorized the executive committee to approve a $155,000 contract with Renaissance Group Inc. to provide architectural and engineering services for the $3 million LES expansion project. That work includes an interior renovation of the school entrance for security purposes.
Those renovations further include a seven-classroom expansion of approximately 10,250 square feet, an alternate bid for an additional four classrooms at 4,000 square feet and a cafetorium addition of approximately 1,100 square feet.
Horrell also updated the board on the district’s recent transportation request for proposal (RFP). Bidders included the district’s current provider, Durham School Services, and First Student Inc., the largest provider in the U.S. Horrell said he expects to bring a recommendation to the board in April.
CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to email@example.com.