Schools continue to improve safety

PARKERSBURG – Students returned to Wood County schools Wednesday with minimal problems, according to Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of school services for Wood County Schools.

School officials are still acutely aware of the Newtown, Conn., school incident and continue to review and adjust safety procedures, Woodward said. The adjustments are not limited to schools. Security at other board offices was being tightened. Visitors are now buzzed into the administrative building, must sign in and receive a pass before proceeding.

Woodward said school officials put money into an access lock system at the tech department, warehouse and the central office, areas that house sensitive information and have visitors. The work was done over the summer and activated shortly thereafter. The administrative office was the final building.

“We focused on schools,” she said.

The statewide project was funded from the West Virginia Legislature – through the School Building Authority- for security. Disbursement of funds was based on county population. The Wood County school system received $350,000 annually for the three-year state program.

Woodward said the program’s money has been spent, but – given the recent events – she would not be surprised to see state funding appropriated for the program again.

In addition, Woodward said officials will be conducting a safety audit for each school.

Pat Sole, head of the recently created Safety and Education Management Department, has been working with schools as part of the audit. And Superintendent Pat Law has charged Sole to provide monthly updates on safety initiative and upgrades.

The idea of allowing armed personnel on school grounds does not seem a possibility.

In Washington County, Ohio, school officials have been asked to at least consider the idea of allowing some school personnel to carry concealed weapons.

The idea, which has been rejected by West Virginia teacher union officers, has not come up in Wood County. The county’s three high schools are staffed by PRO officers, but those are the only schools staffed by law enforcement, and those officers are not armed.

Woodward said people have done a lot of thinking over the holidays in the wake of the Sandy Hook incident. She noted the board of education has not met since the incident and has not raised any issues with school officials.

“We will want to discuss options,” she said.

Woodward said parents want their children to be safe and “they realize we have teachers in place who care about what happens to the kids.”

Woodward pointed to several thick binders on the shelf behind her desk that outline the county crisis management plan and safety committee meetings. She said school officials work with FEMA, 911, police and fire personnel in forming policies and crisis response.

The safety committee will meet this afternoon to review the system’s crisis management and emergency response.