Tupelo adds new school safety procedures

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo High School may soon begin using special key cards for individuals to enter the buildings on its campus.
The change is one of several being studied by Tupelo Public School District as it reviews its safety and security plans in the wake of last month’s deadly school shooting in Connecticut.
The school’s 14 buildings would be locked during the school day, and teachers would be given a proximity card that would electronically unlock the doors as they approached. The card wouldn’t have to be swiped but would activate when held near the door.
The doors would be unlocked when students switch classes. Those who need to move between buildings during class time could be given a temporary pass from a teacher that would unlock the door. Visitors could also be given temporary passes.
“We want to ensure we continue to make safety and security a top priority, because it is,” said TPSD Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon, who mentioned the change while addressing the district’s school board on Tuesday. “If you don’t have safe and orderly schools, you won’t have optimal learning.”
Dillon told the board about several steps the district has taken in the past month. A security camera and buzzer system will be installed at all pre-K through eighth-grade schools in the district.
Visitors will push a button at the front door and tell the secretary their business. The secretary will be able to see them on a video screen. If the visit is questionable, an administrator will be sent to talk to the person before he or she can be admitted.
The district also has invited Tupelo police officers to visit schools any day for breakfast and lunch. The idea is to build rapport between students and officers.
In reviewing plans, Dillon consulted with Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton, with the district’s security and facilities directors, with a school security director from another school district and with school board member Kenneth Wheeler, who is head of security at North Mississippi Medical Center.
The districts’ principals met to discuss their safety plans, gathered input from their faculties and met again.
“We have a great safety plan, but we consistently want to improve,” Superintendent Gearl Loden said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com