NASHVILLE – Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools took great strides Monday to step up security and fortify all of its facilities in light of recent school shootings.
School board members voted to appropriate $200,000 toward school safety. District staff will begin installing cameras at all schools that pan front entrances, issuing identification badges for all employees, upgrading all classroom doors with new security features as well as replacing several doors with obsolete locking mechanisms.
“Safety first begins at the classroom level,” said Dr. Eric Cunningham, the district’s associate superintendent of facilities and operations. “We will install video access controls at the front entrance of every school. After school begins, visitors will have to be buzzed in. They will be seen at the front door with the video surveillance system, they will state their purpose and then be directed into the front office where they will then receive directions and a visitor pass.”
All school employees will use a badge, Cunningham said, to quickly identify who is an employee and who isn’t.
After appropriating more funds through the school board’s capital improvement plan, system staff will begin phase two of the security upgrades, which involves revamping exterior door security access as well as infrastructure improvements and installing intrusion alarms.
“Not all of our schools are housed under one roof, and many of our students and staff have to go in between buildings. Therefore, instead of cutting a lot of master keys, we need some proximity cards and keypads to allow authorized personnel access to controlled spaces without using keys,” Cunningham said.
Voice over Internet protocol systems will allow staff members with special passwords to speak over school intercoms regardless of which phone they use in the facility.
“We always stress the importance of communication. By using our VOIP to intercom, principals will be able to communicate with a particular classroom as well as the entire school right from their desktop,” Cunningham said. “All locks throughout the district will be inspected and either repaired or replaced.”
Schools that do not have direct line of sight from the main office to the street will undergo minor structural improvements to direct traffic into the main office, Cunningham said.
Board member Bob Jenkins said $200,000 didn’t seem like enough money to implement all of the security upgrades.
“It is not,” Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson said. “However, we are having to redeploy funds right now to take care of those immediate safety needs. As we build out the capital plan, there is going to be a need to reprioritize based on the conditions.”
Jackson said he has been given some indication a broader discussion is to be had with Nash County commissioners regarding safety upgrades.
School board members also were unanimous in their decision to name the district’s sixth middle school – located at the former Rocky Mount High School – “Rocky Mount Middle School” after system staff received feedback from the public on possible names.
The school’s gymnasium will be named Charles C. Davis Gymnasium in honor of the longtime Parker Middle School principal.