Elkin school board to consider safety improvements at retreat

Anthony GonzalezStaff Writer

February 5, 2013

School safety is on parents’ minds, and Elkin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe knows it.

That’s because in Newtown, Conn., 20 children were gunned down in an elementary school by a ruthless killer.

The images that brought many to tears still multiply as the media covers the aftermath of the event. Families and schools across the country are still trying to cope with the tragedy, all in an effort to make sense of what happened.

“It is important that we continue to provide assurance that we are doing everything we can to keep our students safe,” said Bledsoe.

“You have to think the most important aspect that we deal with every single day is when that parent allows us to have their child, and they depend upon us to protect that child,” he said. “We know that teaching and learning is going to happen, and that’s our gift. That’s our trade. But we have to make sure that the human need is met, and they have to feel really good about turning their child over to us.”

Dr. Bledsoe informed the Elkin Board of Education in its latest meeting that he immediately pulled in a team of support for its elementary, middle, and high school after the tragedy asking for an assessment on school safety needs. Dr. Bledsoe instructed facilities Director John Altemueller to conduct a comprehensive analysis on school safety and to provide his findings to the BOE.

In his report, Altemueller tested security measures, such as: entrance and exit access points, doorbells/speakers at entrances; exterior door locks, number pads vs. slam locks; full-time security/school resource officers at entrances; lights and alarms in classrooms; panic devices, even additional comprehensive video surveillance throughout the building’s interior and exterior.

According to Altemueller, specific improvements recommended for Elkin will come at a slight cost to taxpayers.

“When it comes to the safety of our kids, it’s worth it,” said Altemueller.

“No piece of equipment or technology is going to keep kids safe in a school,” said Joan Walters, who was visiting Elkin and picking up her niece at the elementary school. “For me, having a visible human staff trained at how to react is best. It’s good to see Elkin taking safety seriously though.”

“Yea, but technology and safety go hand in hand,” said Richard Walters, Joan’s husband. He disagreed on hiring more staff. “I think what Elkin must weigh is training of its existing staff. It doesn’t have a reputation on overspending, but it must determine if expenditures make sense. Could they have installed one extra camera, one extra feature that it didn’t have today to potentially save a life? I say if so they should spend it. Fix any holes that may be out there.”

“Three weeks from now, we’re looking at budget time for our commissioners,” said Dr. Bledsoe. “Everything is on the table.

“High on the list are going to be some safety issues that we’re going to address,” he said. “It’s not over the top. We will address safety issues at our retreat also,” he said.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez by calling 835-1513 or email at agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.