Elkin continues to beef up safety at schools

By Wendy Byerly Wood - wbyerly-wood@elkintribune.com
Shonda Smitherman, a nurse practitioner and staff member of Compassion Care Center in Yadkinville, presents a curriculum to the Elkin City Schools Board of Education Monday which will be used to satisfy the state-required reproductive health portion of the Comprehensive Health Education Program for the schools. - Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune
John Altemueller, maintenance director for Elkin City Schools, outlines safety measures that have been taken and continue at the system’s three schools. - Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune
Shonda Smitherman, a nurse practitioner and staff member of Compassion Care Center in Yadkinville, presents a curriculum to the Elkin City Schools Board of Education Monday which will be used to satisfy the state-required reproductive health portion of the Comprehensive Health Education Program for the schools. - Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Staff and administrators with Elkin City Schools continue to increase safety measures at the system’s three schools, with an update on that progress being given at Monday’s board of education meeting. Also, the school board approved a new curriculum to be used to satisfy the reproductive health requirement from the state after an overview of the content.

John Altemueller, maintenance director for the city school system, explained to a crowded room in Elkin High School’s media center, the new safety precautions taken by the schools, including the coming addition of a push-to-talk button on the outside of the main entrance at Elkin Elementary School.

“Last year, we installed a door card entry system, allowing us to keep all doors locked during the day,” he said of the Elkin Middle and High school campus.

Included in that system was a camera at the main entrance to each of the two schools with the push-to-talk capability so that office staff can see who is asking for admission to the facility and then they can be buzzed in if appropriate.

“I believe both systems are working quite well, and we have plans to expand [the card entry system] to more doors next year,” Altemueller said, noting that the system relies heavily on students following the rules as to how to use the cards.

Following a school safety meeting held last week, he said other items to be addressed moving forward include capability for all principals, assistant principals and secretaries to be able to view cameras in the school in real time from a dedicated monitor in their offices.

At the elementary school, the front door will have the camera push-to-talk system installed so that the door can be locked at all times. Also, other exterior doors on the campus will begin being locked at all times, he said.

For those with classes in the modular building behind the school, a door card entry system will be installed and students will have cards to use during the day, which will be turned in to the teachers every afternoon. Those same cards can be used in the cafeteria to pay for meals, Altemueller said.

An updated inventory of cards distributed at the middle and high school is going to be taken and any lost cards will be deactivated immediately. Altemueller said students should let the schools know immediately if they lose a card so it can be deactivated.

At Elkin High School, Principal Joel Hoyle is going to begin requiring visitors to remain at the front office until the teacher they are to meet with comes to the office and escorts them to where they should go in the school.

Another piece of the safety measures, Altemueller said, is the school volunteer background check policy implemented by the school board recently. The policy will require background checks of all level three volunteers who have direct contact and supervision of students.

“We have had on the calendar before recent events in Florida scheduled lockdown drills,” he said, which will soon be taking place.

The staff also is working to update the schools’ critical incident files with student lists, class rosters, locations of safe mass evacuation sites and other needed information. Also included is a list of bus drivers with CDLs and those in the school system who are CPR certified.

“We are discussing ways to continue talking to students about positive behavior,” said Altemueller. “There is nothing to take the place of diligent employees who keep in contact with students. One group cannot do this alone.”

The school system plans to have parent nights leading up to the lessons on reproductive health for middle- and high-schoolers between now and the end of the school year, according to Cynthia Altemueller, chief academic officer for Elkin City Schools.

She and Shonda Smitherman, a nurse practitioner and staff member with Compassion Care Center in Yadkinville, presented the new policy and curriculum to the school board members so they would understand what the students would be learning in their two- to three-hour courses.

Smitherman said where the former curriculum highlighted abstinence only, the new lessons focus on sexual risk avoidance through remaining abstinent until marriage.

The nonprofit Compassion Care Center provides the courses and teaches them in the schools, with a school staff member present, at no cost to the school system, Smitherman explained. They have been providing the courses to Yadkin County Schools’ students for several years.

“Our purpose is to educate, empower and equip men and women to make good decisions,” said Smitherman.

The sixth- and seventh-grade curriculum focuses on “Relationships under Construction,” while the next steps highlight “Guard Your Heart,” with a focus on setting boundaries on what is and isn’t acceptable.

The instructors are required to give sexually-transmitted-disease testing site locations, abuse hotline information and a list of protections students can use, Smitherman said, but the curriculum’s focus is abstinence.

The school system must allow 60 days for parents to review the material before it is taught to the students, and parents do have the right to withhold their students from the class or withdraw their students during the class, but it must be done in writing, Altemueller said. A parent night also will be held so that parents can come to the school and learn about the program and get more information and discuss the lessons.

Approval of the program was given unanimously in a vote of the school board.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

Shonda Smitherman, a nurse practitioner and staff member of Compassion Care Center in Yadkinville, presents a curriculum to the Elkin City Schools Board of Education Monday which will be used to satisfy the state-required reproductive health portion of the Comprehensive Health Education Program for the schools.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_school-board-1-formatted-1.jpgShonda Smitherman, a nurse practitioner and staff member of Compassion Care Center in Yadkinville, presents a curriculum to the Elkin City Schools Board of Education Monday which will be used to satisfy the state-required reproductive health portion of the Comprehensive Health Education Program for the schools. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

John Altemueller, maintenance director for Elkin City Schools, outlines safety measures that have been taken and continue at the system’s three schools.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_school-board-2-formatted-1.jpgJohn Altemueller, maintenance director for Elkin City Schools, outlines safety measures that have been taken and continue at the system’s three schools. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Shonda Smitherman, a nurse practitioner and staff member of Compassion Care Center in Yadkinville, presents a curriculum to the Elkin City Schools Board of Education Monday which will be used to satisfy the state-required reproductive health portion of the Comprehensive Health Education Program for the schools.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_school-board-3-formatted-1.jpgShonda Smitherman, a nurse practitioner and staff member of Compassion Care Center in Yadkinville, presents a curriculum to the Elkin City Schools Board of Education Monday which will be used to satisfy the state-required reproductive health portion of the Comprehensive Health Education Program for the schools.Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

By Wendy Byerly Wood

wbyerly-wood@elkintribune.com