How local schools are keeping students safe

WAAY 31 talked with two superintendents about how their security has changed after mass school shootings.

Posted: Aug. 2, 2018 12:41 PM
Updated: Aug. 2, 2018 6:43 PM

All week long WAAY 31 is showing how school districts are preparing for the new year.

Now, we're focused on the one thing every parent fears the most, a school shooting.

"I'm very concerned, that's why my pastor tells us to pray before we send them off to school," said Geraldine Moore, a local parent. 

Like many, Moore has school safety on her mind as she gets ready to send her kids off to school.

"I thank God it hasn't happened in the area that I'm in," added Moore.

As mass school shootings piled up last school year, Madison City School leaders started to re-evaluate how they keep students safe.

"The number one safeguard is to, if you see something, tell us," said Superintendent Robby Parker.

When Madison students return to class on August 7th, they will notice two new additions to their hallways.

"Every school is covered with a mental health counselor and we feel like that is going to be a great service to our kids. We have an SRO at every school now," added Parker.

The district aimed to raise $750,000 to pay for the extra school resource officers and additional counselors.

People sent in a little more than $20,000 worth of donations.

Now, discretionary funds are paying for the rest of the bill. That money is typically used for extra teachers and classes.

"When you fund school safety, you're funding fewer teachers and less offerings. And we have to find that balance, school safety is an unfunded mandate," said Parker. 

Parker is also in the process of hiring a Safety and Security Coordinator to his staff.

"So we can have somebody that focuses on safety and security all the time at a central office level that is in schools focusing on that,"explained Parker.

While Madison City Schools are working to up their security staff and counselors, Madison County Schools are working to make sure their buildings are safeguarded against any threats.

When walking to the front door of a Madison County school, one of the first new things you'll notice are more secured entrances.

There is a speaker you have to press to talk with someone in the office about why you are on campus.

The office staff can also get a clear picture of whose is at the door with a camera view.

School administrators hope it will help keep anyone from entering campus who shouldn't be there.

"We want those visitors to be able to come into the school but not necessarily have access to the students," explained Superintendent Matt Massey.

The Madison County school board set aside $750,000 for security projects, like securing entrances and giving special access to employees only.

"For elementary schools we really want one point entry for elementary and middle schools, for high schools we are looking at a two point," said Massey.

But they're not stopping there. Next for the school district, a California based group, School Safety Operations, will visit all campuses to see what the district is doing well and where improvements need to be made.

"We may very well need to invest more into safety and maybe they can find somethings we haven't necessarily looked at it," said Massey.

Both Madison County and Madison City say they're ready for kids to have a safe year when they head back to the classroom.

Madison City schools encourage their students to use the private Text to Protect phone line to report any suspicious activity. The phone line protects students identity. The service is free to use and the number is 256-604-2345.

Keith Ward, spokesman for Huntsville City Schools, says the district has upped their security over recent years. Main door entrances at schools remain locked, visitors have to be buzzed in. The district has also worked to add more security cameras throughout the campuses. 

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