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School Safety Top Priority for RSS
Parents and students of Rowan-Salisbury Schools (RSS) can be assured school safety is a priority for the new academic year.
Rick Towell, Director of Safety and Risk Manager for RSS, has worked to enhance district safety plans, meaning staff will be better prepared for any incidents that may arise.
“Things they’ll notice is there will be a more secure school”, he says. “Most of our schools already have security vestibules. Now, we have worked with all staff to ensure a more secure perimeter, so anyone coming to the school will have to go through a security check to get in.”
All staff have gone through a more directed safety training focused on keeping our buildings secured and safety plans for multiple types of emergencies.
Any time staff members escort students and pass exterior doors, they will conduct a security check to ensure the door is closed, locked and secured.
“We’re taking more ownership of security”, Towell says. That means that not just local law enforcement, but teachers, staff, parents and children, all have a part to play in keeping a safe school environment.
For example, maintenance staff at the schools will do regular checks to ensure external doors are locked and secure.
In our district, the NC Highway Patrol and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office have conducted school safety checks. The agencies will continue to conduct the school checks again this year. NC Probation and Parole officers have been conducting school safety checks since June and will continue this through December. All middle and high schools have assigned School Resource Officers or safety officers, and we contract to have off-duty officers at our elementary schools.
“At the beginning of each school year, we train with principals and assistant principals on OSHA regulations, fire safety, and lockdown procedures. The principals then take this information back to their schools and train staff,” he says.
Towell plans four lockdown drills at each school during the school year. One has to be within 30 days of school starting, then the school plans one, and Towell will show up unannounced to do lockdown drills two more times at each school. Parents will be informed as the drill starts.
“Of course, 99 percent of real lockdowns are due to outside influences, such as a crime nearby or another sort of threat,” Towell added.
Rowan County is more aware of mass violence, he says, and law enforcement agencies have been practicing responses for months using the old Enochville Elementary School building for training.
Every student in every grade (K-12) will learn safety measures.
“Most of our security measures have been in place for years,” Towell says. “We have been enhancing the physical security of our schools over the last three years and will continue to do so each year.”
Parents can help by reporting anything and everything, from bullying to rumors. The schools have an anonymous tip line, with the number posted in all the schools, so students or parents can safely call.
Parents should talk to their children realistically, Towell says. They need to check their children’s backpacks and coats and tell them why they shouldn’t take something to school. If they have firearms in the house, they should be locked away and secure where children cannot get access.
Parents and children should regularly review safety information. “Kids are pretty resilient, and parents and staff need to share as much as they can with each other.”
Towell wants to reassure parents that Rowan-Salisbury Schools is being proactive in trying to stop things before they happen and offering extra training.
“Safety is a priority for us, and parents should feel comfortable with us. Our goal is to get children to school and back home safely every day.”
By Deirdre Parker Smith, for Rowan-Salisbury Schools