Superintendent: Berkeley Co. schools prioritizing safety

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Berkeley County School District officials say they are taking steps to ensure a safe environment for their students.

"School safety is and will remain our number one priority," Dr. Rodney Thompson, Berkeley County School District (BCSD) superintendent, stated, at the opening of a joint county- and city-wide law enforcement meeting with district officials last week. "We have enjoyed a great working relationship with our law enforcement partners and will continue to strengthen that bond in 2013."

The Newtown tragedy last December raised significant awareness of the issue of school safety and prompted many districts and schools throughout the country to re-evaluate their safety procedures and plans. In Berkeley County, district officials met with representatives from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, other law enforcement representatives, and municipal mayors to discuss strategic opportunities to improve school-based safety at the district's 41 schools, a release states..

"Our community is growing and our schools are overcrowded," Thompson stated. "With more students in our classrooms, we have more visitors to our schools than ever before. Safety on school property, including arrival and dismissal traffic, is an area of great focus."

"School safety includes interior building safety, as well as exterior perimeter monitoring. The Sandy Hook incident raises concerns about building intruders and reinforces Berkeley County agencies' shared commitment and dedication to the safety of our children," Captain Rick Ollic, Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, noted. "We are trained and prepared to manage an incident of that nature and work with the district routinely on drills, training procedures, and best practices.

"However, statistically, safety is a much larger issue for schools outside of the building where students and parents gather before and after school, or where the confluence of buses, passenger vehicles, walking and biking children, are merging to enter or exit a property."

District principals and law enforcement representatives are working together to conduct safety audits at all BCSD schools and police presence will be increased as part of routine beat patrol. Increased measures will be taken to ask for visitor identification. School buildings and classrooms will also be under review at each school.

Additionally, the district is reviewing the entrance and exit procedures, doorways, lock systems, and traffic flow patterns around the perimeter of schools.