• School board meets over weekend ahead of PSD break; moving forward on security measures, agriculture education building items

Over the weekend, The Polk County Board of Education gathered for an early morning session to take care of a few business items not ready for the regular meeting officials wanted to get completed before Spring Break.

Among those were two security-related items that board members unanimously approved in order to ensure that teachers and administrators have a bit more control over keeping children safe and in place.

For starters, new locks will be going on the doors of every classroom that will allow teachers to lock their classrooms from the inside as well as out.

New locks will be installed as soon as orders from two different vendors already used by the Polk School District -- Lovvorn Door and Windows and On the Spot Locksmith -- to provide the new locks within each school. The actual work will be completed by maintenance workers.

Facilities and Maintenance Director Jeff Little said that they'll be spreading out the order for the new locks between the two businesses in order to get the work completed in a timely manner. He explained that if the district didn't move fast to order the new locks, they might not be able to purchase them for some months and leave a security measure unfixed.

"The supplier indicated that he had $10 million in quotes out and that is just a drop in the bucket there," he said. "If we disperse the order a bit we can get these back pretty quick."

Superintendent Laurie Atkins said that "all the vendors are facing this because all the other school districts are wanting to do the same thing."

Hundreds of locks - at an average of around $147 each -- will be replaced around the schools with final prices to be determined based on how many each business can provide with a fast turnaround.

These restrictive key systems can't be copied in the same way someone can do with many in their pockets or hanging on key rings near the door. Hardware stores can't reproduce these, since each is specifically designed to fit into just one tumbler.

School board member Jane Hamlett did express that if teachers are given keys to their own rooms to control, the school system needed to make it clear that if lost the cost to replace the core of the locks would come out of their pockets.

"Individuals are going to have to pay for that if they lose a key," Atkins said. "We've not done that in the past, but now we're going to have to put some consequences in place."

Hamlett added that "There are people who have keys to things that they shouldn't have keys to, parents who have keys to gates they shouldn't have anymore, and I'm on board in changing the locks, and you've done a great job investigating the cost of this, and I appreciate that. But I think if we're going to do that, our staff, faculty and students are held responsible for these keys."

She wants keys to be signed out by a teacher with an administrator controlling them, and that costs will be attached for lost keys, since they are so expensive to replace.

"I understand that people aren't going to be happy, but when we go through these measures and try to ensure safety, everyone has to do their part," Hamlett said.

Another security measure that was approved involved a request to spend $87,000 for new glass partitions to be installed at a few schools in the county in order to control who can come and go within the facility.

As it stands, a few of the buildings have doors that can be accessed, and allow visitors to bypass front offices and access school buildings without anyone immediately checking them in and providing assistance and controlling whether they should be coming in.

To fix the problem, partitions will be installed in the two doors at a school always accessible to visitors and guests coming in, while at the same time allowing the rest of the doors to only open from the inside and thus let students get out still in cases where they might need to exit quickly, like a fire drill.

The partitions will be going up at Cherokee Elementary, Cedartown Middle and High School and Eastside Elementary.

Other schools already have measures in place to control visitor access.

Added to measures were also a request to add awnings at Rockmart High School, meant to protect students from the weather heading out to the Field House and other locations. That was tabled for the time being.

Instead, school board members moved forward and approved getting materials for the new Agriculture Education facility at Rockmart High School.

Part of the 2017 E-SPLOST package approved in November, the new building will provide an arena, classroom space, a banquet-sized dining hall and kitchen space at the high school, meant to support the agriculture education side of Polk School District's various programs.

School board members approved R.K. Redding Construction to move forward on acquiring the metal for the facility.

Keith Redding also provided school board members with a list of additional items they did not include in their base bid for the building, which included items like kitchen appliances or wiring for the building for intercoms, or security cameras.

Board members decided to seek a list for the full cost of all the items on the list, and then determine whether to get everything from the contracting firm or bid out the items themselves.

Atkins said that with everything included, it would likely increase the price of the facility around $1.2 million, a cost that also includes a "healthy contingency fund."