County school safety issues discussed
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Jan 26, 2014 | 958 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
How the county school system could work to make school buildings safer and brief updates on a few school renovation projects were discussed during a special called meeting of the Bradley County Board of Education Saturday morning.

Angie Lyon of the architectural firm Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris gave the board an overview of a recent survey to assess the safety of local schools.

After visiting Bradley County school buildings, the firm ranked the schools by which had the most safety concerns.

Lyon said the schools that did not have “secured” offices received the highest scores.

She said schools like Bradley Central High School that had the offices away from the main doors meant people had to walk into where the students were to get to it.

“That’s the greatest need we see,” Lyon said.

A second factor was the presence of attached buildings.

Schools like Lake Forest Middle School that require students to walk from building to building for classes were also rated as unsafe, Lyon said.

In addition to addressing major projects like renovating whole buildings, she suggested some minor changes like installing “duress buttons” to send a signal for help to emergency officials if pressed.

“That’s an incredibly cheap thing,” Lyon said.

McDaniel said two local schools actually had those buttons installed. 

He did not share the information with the board, because he did not want to tell would-be attackers in the general public which schools did not have the extra way to call for help.

He said the school system has been looking for ways to improve the safety of school buildings since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in late 2012.

Lately the focus has been “securing the perimeters” of school properties by looking at adding new fencing around schools with classrooms in multiple buildings.

Board member Nicholas Lillios said it would also be important to examine school safety policies. He suggested there were some changes that could be made in a shorter amount of time than would be required by such a project.

McDaniel said he agreed, adding that some potential safety measures like having students swipe their school-issued IDs to get into school buildings would require new procedures.

Board members also received some updates on where some school renovation projects were in their respective processes.

Lyon said progress on a project to join the auditorium at Lake Forest Middle School has been stalled while the company meet with an insurance company, which should happen next month.

McDaniel said workers have been “chipping away” at roof repairs at Lake Forest.

Construction also continues on a new addition at Walker Valley High School.

The eight-classroom addition was paid for in part by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant and was built to withstand tornado-force winds, McDaniel said.

He said the Walker Valley addition was an example of a school capital project doubling as a new safety measure by providing more secure shelter in a storm.

The school board’s capital outlay budget for 2014 is still in the works, and McDaniel said he would like to see more such projects included.