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Schools lack cash to modify entrances

By Preston Knight - pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Given the means, Shenandoah County Public Schools will get all the safety money can buy.

Until then, schools will operate as they basically always have, and parents should not have reason to worry, school officials said Monday.

Last week, the School Board heard from central office administration that the school division's goal of modifying entrances to all of the schools to make them safer -- adding a door into the main office between two banks of glass doors -- is too costly right now. Superintendent Keith Rowland said Monday that the roughly $115,000 project would be revisited later this year so the school system can do more research.

In recent years, the School Board also has discussed adding receptionists to the front of each school at all times. That, however, was determined to be too costly as well -- at an almost $98,000 price tag.

Rowland said schools would still have someone at the front entrance during high traffic times this school year, which was the solution the board decided on after the full-time receptionist idea failed.

District 2 member Rick Koontz said Monday that having a receptionist at a school's entrance most of the time is the best the school system can do in tough budget times.

"We had money budgeted for [the entrance project] this year, but if we have any blurps at any point, we're going to be scraping for the funds," he said. "It's not a big deal. I think they wanted to do a little more research so they make sure when they do it, they do it right."

That principle of getting it right the first time applies to why a safety exercise was held last week at Stonewall Jackson High School, where a mock intruder had to be found and subdued. Coordinated by the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office, the event was a success, said Rowland, whose role was to observe.

"It's one of those things you hope to never have to see," he said.

Avoiding such a disaster, at least on the central campus, got a boost recently when the school system received a grant to place a second school resource officer on the site. Rowland said the grant pays for the additional officer for one year.

The campus spent the spring semester last year with only one full-time officer after the Woodstock Police Department stopped funding its position.

Also on the safety front, Rowland said he is writing a letter to all parents notifying them of steps the school division is taking to combat swine flu. Schools will be installing hand sanitizers in high traffic areas, including libraries, cafeterias and locker

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1 Comment

Sandra Rogers

I think the schools and the County need to rethink this. The safety of our children should come first. The amount of money is reasonable to assure safety for our children. Many of the County Schools sit in close promity to Interstate 81 which allows easy access to school property. It is about establishing priorities. Safety should be at the top of the list. While media attention to this issue may have lessened the threat of harm remains constant.

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