BOE to set up security committee

Lou Byars

Rome City Schools is putting together a committee to examine school security and find ways in which it can be improved, Superintendent Lou Byars told board members during a called meeting Wednesday.

The committee will be made up of officials from the Rome Police Department and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, along with board members, administrators and stakeholders in the community. Byars also said students should take part in the discussion because they can often be the first to hear of a potential threat or safety concern.

The meeting touched on projects concerning school safety which have been completed and those in the works, along with an increasing police presence, and providing advocates for kids to open up communication for students to feel safe in reporting bullying or more dangerous threats.

With the student body of Rome High continuing to grow, Byars asked Rome police Maj. Rodney Bailey if adding another school resource officer at the school would be possible — Rome High, Rome Middle and the Rome Transitional Academy each have one SRO.

The department is 18 officers short and those it has are working 12-hour shifts, Bailey said. But he believed the addition of six recruits currently in training would provide enough relief for another officer to be posted at the high school.

Board member Alvin Jackson asked Bailey if there has been any interest from retired officers in becoming SROs. Bailey said there has not been any yet. However, new SROs should embrace a tactical mindset and be younger and quicker.

The system is seeking quotes on adding building extensions at the front of East Central and West Central elementary schools. This would create a tiered entryway with an office window between the two sets of doors for a staff member to screen anyone before they could reach classrooms.

As part of the current education local option sales tax package, the system installed barcode readers at each school. To open a door a programmed card must be placed before a reader for it to unlock.

Buzz-in entry systems with cameras have also been put in at schools. Schools also have radios that are connected to the Floyd County 911 network.

Upgrades to security cameras at the high school and middle school have been completed and Anna K. Davie Elementary had them installed when the new school was built. Over the next six months security cameras will be installed for the remaining schools, with the exception of North Heights Elementary, which will undergo renovations to become a sixth-grade academy as part of the next ELOST package.

Byars said each school holds two active shooter drills a year. Jackson added he'd like to see more training for teachers and administrators on safety plans. Finding time for professional development on something other than classroom management can be a challenge, Byars said, but he would look at what could be done.

Bailey said it is important for police to have updated emergency operations plans, and police can come into schools to explain what their response is. Any concern or report — even if it's seemingly minor or even odd — must be looked into, he added.