By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
Last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, naturally, left school officials everywhere pretty shaken.
“In light of recent tragedies, I think every school is starting to take a closer look at security,” said Itawamba Attendance Center Assistant Principal Sheryl Ewing. “Parents trust us with their most treasured possessions every day; we take that responsibility very seriously … You can’t be too careful.”
With that in mind, school officials are looking to bolster campus security with a new comprehensive security system. If all goes according to plan, at the beginning of the next school year, each of the school’s 10 buildings will be locked down during school hours. In order to gain entrance, teachers and administrators will be given keycards. No keycard? No entry.
Each teacher and administrator will be issued a unique card to come and go through school buildings. All the card entries will run to a central PC in the main office, which will track which cards are being used on what doors and how often. If a card goes missing or is stolen, officials will be able to deactivate that individual card and issue another.
Additionally, school administrators are considering locking down the front entryway. Visitors will need to communicate with the school staff via an intercom and camera from outside the front office.
School officials are currently collecting bids on the keyless entry portion of the project, which is estimated to cost between $25,000—$30,000. Officials are hoping to have the new security locks in place when school begins again in August.
In order to pay for the increased security, the school held a raffle. For two weeks, students and teachers sold chances on $500 in cash — $1 per chance.
In two weeks, the school made more than $27,000 … enough to pay for the keyless entries.
School officials were a bit flabbergasted at the fundraiser’s success.
“Everyone just bought into it,” Ewing said of the fundraiser. “When they found out what the money was going to support, there was just an unbelievable amount of support for it.”
The assistant principal jokingly added that the raffle was originally intended to be the first of several fundraisers that would help raise money to pay for the new security system.
The top-selling student of the fundraiser was Tyler Newlin, who sold more than 1,000 tickets. On Monday, the raffle’s winner, Andy Tyra, dropped by the school to pick up his prize. He said he bought eight of the 27,529 tickets sold.
If the beefed up security system sounds a bit unwelcoming, school officials don’t mean it to be. Rather, it’s meant to keep foot traffic around campus at a minimum and ensure that every visitor on campus is meant to be there.
“There are days when we might have 600 visitors on campus for an event,” Ewing explained. “We want to still be able to have those kinds of events. But as the world changes, we need to change to ensure our school stays safe.
“This is all an effort to make our campus as safe as it can be,” Ewing added. “You can’t be too careful.”
According to Principal Pat Stone, the overall goal is to ensure that everything is channeled through the front office. For example, if a parent needs to see a child or teacher, they come to the front office; a parent/teacher conference would take place at the front of the school rather than in the classroom; and if something needs delivering to a student, an office worker will take it.
“We have a tremendous amount of traffic that comes into this school,” the principal said. “I’m trying to ensure the safety of our students and teachers by minimizing the number of visitors coming and going from the campus.”
The school has already been making extensive efforts to improve safety. Visitors can no longer access the classroom buildings without first coming through the main office. Classroom doors remain locked during school hours, and teachers have been instructed to question any visitors walking through the hallways without an official pass from the front office.
“We don’t want anyone to feel unwelcome here,” Stone said. “But we have to make sure our students and teachers feel safe.”