School administrators are worried about possible vulnerable areas that are in the process of being secured, according to Gerald Witt, Greenwood County School District 50 assistant superintendent for administration.
Greenwood High School is in the process of constructing an exterior wall at the rear entrance to the gym, this comes after the completed construction of a separate exterior wall in the area between the main entrance and gym.
“As we were going around and trying to make some assessments we felt those were some areas that we needed to improve,” Witt said. “We felt like there was some vulnerability there in terms of people having easy access to the school. That’s why we looked at walls, some door fronts that would certainly reduce that risk.”
A wall was recently built in front of Pinecrest Elementary School as well, and the district’s working on installing electronic locks to ease lockdown protocol — locks that can be controlled remotely instead of having to manually secure each door — and negate unwanted visitors and trespassers.
Funding for these projects comes from excess funds from the past school year, which totaled about $700,000.
Witt said the newer schools didn’t need much construction because they were initially designed to reduce access to the center of the schools. The older schools, however, were not initially designed to reduce access, so that is why they are in line for more updates, which is mostly adding walls.
Witt said the walls are designed for each respective school.
“We work with an architect in terms of the design and we tried to be sure that it would be very difficult for a person to crawl through,” Witt said. “You can never say nothing is humanly impossible, but you try to get as close to it as you can.”
Some safety implementations, such as electronic buzzers located near the front door of each school, have proven to be beneficial, but Witt isn’t shying away from looking at new security technology going forward.
“As you find a better strategy, you implement it. It may be the best thing we’re doing now, but that’s not to say that there’s something better,” Witt said.
Lakeview and Hodges Elementary are two other schools that are in the midst of construction. Lakeview is in the process of having exterior electric locks and exterior access points to ease lockdown. Hodges is getting a ramp built outside at the rear of the school where a steep hill is located. In case of an emergency exit, installing a ramp would be faster and safer for kids to go down regardless of their physical condition, Witt said.
Aside from all the updates, Witt said adding Safety Officer Natalie Talbert to staff has bolstered security.
“Adding a safety officer has really helped us. It’s given us a great resource that’s beneficial to our district and our children,” Witt said.