The Polk County Board of Education is keeping the well-being of students and staff their top priority, and the group’s newly approved safety policy sees a large focus on the prevention of violence and terror.

“This is a brand new safety policy,” Superintendent Lauri Atkins said. “It laid on the table for 30 days. We did have one revision and one correction.”

In the document, officially known as Policy EBB, the board acknowledges their responsibility in providing a safe learning environment for all students, staff, and visitors who spend time in the district’s schools and vehicles. The policy suggests the best way to honor that responsibility is promoting a culture of awareness.

“The most effective action we can take is to create a culture of awareness and a responsibility to report by staff, students, parents, law enforcement community, and mental health providers,” the document reads. “Under the direction of the Board of Education, the Superintendent shall cause to be developed a written School Safety Plan for each school, which will be annually updated and implemented.”

Each plan will have the goal of curbing school violence, outlining efficient means of responding to incidents that do manage to occur, preventing violence by ensuring threats are immediately reported, and providing an overall safe learning environment. The plans will also address natural disasters and other hazardous events while considering the input of students, teachers, law enforcement, and others.

“The School Safety Plan should describe how training and technical assistance provided by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency shall be accessed,” the policy states. “Such training and assistance may include, but not be limited to, crisis response team development, site surveys and safety audits, crisis management planning, exercise design, safe school planning, emergency operations planning, search and seizure, bomb threat management, and model school safety plans. Designated school administrators and appropriate staff will participate in all emergency training sessions.”

While only appropriate staff will receive training, all employees will be expected to report all actually occurring violence and violent threats to the school principal or superintendent immediately. Failing to do so could have genuine repercussions for staff, including disciplinary actions up to termination.

The policy, which was unanimously approved, is the latest in a long line of safety implementation the board has made in the past year. The creation of the Polk School District Police Department and the implementation of new fencing and other security are a few of the most notable.

Additional policies approved

Alongside creating new policies, the board made amendments to a few existing ones during their April 9 combined session. Since local legislation has not been set by the Georgia General Assembly regarding the compensation of school board members, the group took the matter into their own hands and approved a per diem allowance of $75 for each day of attendance at official board meetings, work sessions, and committee meetings when serving as a representative of the board. No Board member shall be paid for more than one meeting in any one calendar day.

Travel fees and other actual allowable expenses incurred from traveling as a representative of the board will be reimbursed, but members must submit their travel expenses to the superintendent. All compensation must be paid solely from local school tax funds, and an annual $2,000 allowance will be allotted for board member travel, hotel, and meal reimbursements, with conference and registration fees paid by the system.

The item was unanimously approved alongside an amendment to Policy JCDAA regarding student tobacco use. In accordance with the “Georgia Smoke-Free Air Act of 2005,” restrictions on school-ground tobacco use have been extended to include vaping, juuling, and other electronic means of consumption.

“This policy was updated to include the new verbage of vaping, e-cigarettes, juuling- all of our current terms,” Atkins said. “To make sure we have this accurate and correct in our policies and student handbooks in the upcoming year as well.”

Technology purchase for RHS coming

The board has also been updating the schools’ technology one step at a time, and it was Rockmart High School that saw $11,460.80 approved for networking switch updates during the group’s latest meeting.

“We had recently had a quote to update the switches at CHS, and now it’s time to update the technology switches at RHS. There’s a large volume that goes on there,” Atkins said. “So, Progressive Communications had presented their quote of $11,460.80, and I recommend the board approve this quote.”

Those switches are a fundamental part of keeping devices connected to local computer networks, and when they become old or damaged, both employees and students run the risk of losing connectivity. Many county employees were left unable to work online thanks to a network switch crash some months back, though they have been updating their hardware since.

The group also agreed to an extension of their annual contract with internet service provider Parker Fibernet, and while the schools naturally need internet, the contract extension was also to meet the requirements set by eRate.

The program makes telecommunication services more affordable by supplying discounts to schools and libraries, but in order to receive funding, districts must meet the requirement of annual renewal with their ISP.

Miscellaneous

The board also agreed to surplus a selection of 10 used buses and numerous house items they managed to salvage during their acquisition of a house neighboring Rockmart High School. The home needed to be taken down due to extensive termite damage, but undamaged doors, vinyl windows, ceiling fans, a heating unit, cabinets, and much more were deemed surplus-worthy.

Also, students from both Rockmart High and Cedartown High will be participating in the Georgia Future Farmers of America Convention later this month thanks to the board approving the field trip to Macon.

Those interested in keeping up with the board can find more information at https://www.polk.k12.ga.us/Board.

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