The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 3, 2013

County schools’ security study nearly complete

— Among the safety improvements Limestone County School officials are considering in the wake of recent mass shootings is having restricted access points at each facility, upgrading classroom locks and increasing the presence of school security officers.

County schools have been weighing options for increasing school security at the system’s 13 facilities. A taskforce has nearly completed a school-by-school assessment. The facilities include the Limestone County Career Technical Center, six high schools and nine elementary schools. Six of the elementary schools have their own campuses, while the other three are part of West Limestone, Tanner and Elkmont high schools.

About 75 percent of the sites have been visited by the team formed by the Central Office to examine measures the system might add to improve security.

“We have sent a team through most of the schools, and we’re going to complete a 48-page assessment on each school,” Superintendent Tom Sisk said. “It’s important that we bring a plan to the board about the capital outlays we would incur.”

Increased use of SROs

Sisk said among the improvements being considered are restricted access, better classroom locks and a greater presence by school resource officers, or SROs. System employees also receive continuing education in school safety, and students and teachers participate in lockdown drills.

There are currently seven SROs supplied by the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department. The cost is split by the school system and the Limestone County Commission. These officers are assigned full time at the six high schools and Career Tech Center, and additional deputies conduct regular patrols at the elementary schools.

According to county officials, each entity’s share for the SRO program is slightly more than $258,000. The annual budget is $516,908, which covers compensation, insurance, uniforms, equipment and vehicle maintenance and repair.

Sisk invited a firearms instructor to speak during a Jan. 22 work session with the Limestone County school board. David Shuford of North Alabama Firearms Training told the board his business could provide voluntary training at either a school campus or a Madison facility. The discounted training fee is $25 to $90 per educator, based on the training level of the courses. The classes require between four and 14 hours to finish and include training weapons.

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