Page County moves to improve safety in schools
Page News and Courier The Valley BannerA group of a dozen officials from the Page County school district and
sheriff’s office, one county school board members, two staff members,
the Chairman of the Page County Board of Supervisors, and an officer
from the Shenandoah Police Force - about a dozen people in all - arrived
at Shenandoah Elementary school (SES) last Friday morning at 8 a.m.,
prepared to spend the next 90 minutes walking the entire school,
checking on every construction feature and safety practice now in place
and estimating what procedures might add to the school’s overall safety
From this, and similar inspections in every other school in the county,
committee will make recommendations to the county school board and
board of supervisors on physical and procedural changes to prevent any
occurence similar to the Newtown, Conn. school slayings of last month.
“You can’t be prepared for every shooting situation,” said Maj. Pettit of
Page County Sheriff’s Office. “But times have changed and we have to
change along with them,” he added firmly.
Principal Dixie Davis welcomed the delegation’s visit to her school. “We’re
prepared to follow whatever final recommendations come out of this
whole process,” she said. “The safety of the children comes first.”
Then she recited steps already taken by her and administrative assistant
Michael Bell. “We’ve been talking with our local police and fire
departments about what can be done and have had excellent
cooperation,” Davis said. “As a result, we have numbered every window in
the school,” she said, pausing to look up at the front hall windows behind
her listeners. Each window was marked in an upper corner with four-inch
high numbers. “We have already changed some things,” she continued.
“Today, all doors in each classroom will be locked while class is in
session. So are the doors to the courtyard..
“And we’ve talked about having a single alarm button that, when pushed,
will sound an alarm and summon help,” Davis continued. Then, almost
as an aside, she added: “We’ve even talked about using the fire
extinguishers to spray at an intruder, and using anything present that can
help in defense.”
Bell reported that he had made a tour of the building to see what
defensive measures might be employed. “There are still some gates,
pushed back to the walls, from years ago, that we might be able to stretch
out again to block off whole sections of the school,” he said.
Ellen Fields, Clerk of the School Board and recently named the district’s
safety officer, passed out a lengthy safety check list, prepared by a
company. “Please get your answers all filled out and back to me by
Monday,” she requested.
by 9:30 the group was ready to begin its inspection tour, the first such
in county schools following the Newtown, Conn. slayings in
mid-December. Following their inspection the group moved on to perform
a similar safety check at the Grove Hill Elementary School, just two miles
north of Shenandoah. This school has not been used for several years.
“But it has never been formally closed,” said First District School Board
Member Randy Bailey. “It could be opened again as a school, so we’re
going to check it out, too.”
Also attending and taking the tour were Shenandoah Police Officer
Rodney Hensley, Bob Haggard, Director of Maintenance for the Page
County School District, Bo Cook, Captain of Investigations for the Page
County Sheriff’s Office, and Johnny Wooward, at-large Chairman of the
Page County Board of Supervisors.
The committee expects to finish its school inspections within a week.
Then, according to Superintendent of Page County Schools Dr. Donna
Power, the committee will meet again with local police and sheriff’s
deputies to finalize a report with a Needs Assessment List of
recommended changes. These will be presented to both the school
board and the Board of Supervisors. Committee members had met in
advance of Friday’s inspection with town police chiefs, including Paul
Davis, Chief of the Shenandoah Police Department. Cooperation with the
County Board of Supervisors is anticipated throughout this process.