County schools eye increased safety

New Union Elementary School principal Jill Potts demonstrates the new entry buzzer recently installed at the school to improve security. A new identification system that protects the names of children being picked up after school has also been implemented at the school.

STAFF WRITER

Elena Cawley

Coffee County Schools are upping their security procedures, according to school officials.

“The district did a need-survey at each school to see how security can be improved,” said Jill Potts, principal of New Union Elementary School.

As a result of the survey, school officials have started implementing changes to improve safety throughout the county school system.

New buzz-in entry

At New Union Elementary, Potts said, “We got front-door buzzers, so we can keep the front door locked during school hours.”

Visitors can’t just come to the front door into the office without permission, she added.

“We will screen all visitors,” Potts said. “There is a camera outside and people who want to come into the school need to buzz the buzzer. We have a device in the office and can see who is trying to enter the school. If they have a legitimate purpose for being there, we can allow them to come in.”

No-name car identification

“We have quite a few car riders,” Potts said. “We have over 200 students that come to school and are either dropped off or picked up by someone in a car. So we devised a new identification system.”

At New Union Elementary, when parents and caregivers pick up students they - until recently – were to display from their vehicles the name of the child they were there to pick up.  Now, instead, they will display a number that is assigned to both their vehicle and the child or children who are expected to leave school in that car.

The change will not only improve safety by protecting the names of minor children, Potts said, but it will also make the dismissal process more efficient. 

“When (cars) are lined up before the school is out, we’ll go ahead and record those numbers and when the kids come to the gym, where they wait until their car comes, we are able to line them up according to the order of cars that are outside.”

The new process is also improved by reducing the number of lines for pickup.

“Before, we had double lines (of cars) in front and the back, which is dangerous and it takes a lot more people (to manage),” Potts said.

Enforcement changes

According to a recent Facebook post, the Coffee County School Safety Committee met on July 23 to discuss safety improvements that will be implemented soon.

On school grounds, the safety committee plans to make public the direct office phone numbers of security resource officers (SROs) for tips and anonymous reporting. The committee also hopes to up security by adding new SROs, who have already been approved to float among elementary schools and the Koss Center. 

On roadways, according to the committee, Manchester City Police and the Sheriff’s Department will put more emphasis on pulling vehicles out of active school zones and into school parking lots when writing citations. Both will also implement a tag-along program this school year, following random school buses along random routes to ensure the safety of the route.

School entrances will continue to receive updates, the committee said. Already, a gate has been added to Coffee County Central High School to prevent access to the back side of the school and officials say they are in the process of adding a secure front entrance as well.

Door barricades have also been discussed, but officials say there are some “loopholes” that must be addressed before that idea can move forward.

Drugs and bullying

Drug and bullying awareness will also be a priority for school officials this school year.

The Olweus bullying prevention program and the “See Something Say Something” initiative will continue to be used and enhanced within the school.

The DARE program, which focuses on preventing the abuse of drugs, membership in gangs and violent behavior will also continue. 

During the school year, K-9s capable of sniffing out drugs, guns and bombs will be randomly walking through the schools.

Education regarding Fentanyl – an extremely powerful opioid similar to morphine - will increase this upcoming school year will also be a priority.

Committee members plan to reach out to both Manchester City Schools and the Tullahoma Police Department in the hopes of adding a representative from each entity to the safety committee.

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