Florence Co. school district overhauls elementary school safety

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut may seem like an impossible reality at a school like Carver Elementary School in Florence, but that isn't stopping school officials from getting ready.

At Thursday night's Florence County School Board District 1 meeting, Assistant Superintendent Lionel Brown updated board members on new safety measures in place since the Sandy Hook massacre, and of plans still in the works.

"The bottom line is, what we're asking is ' have we done enough?'" Brown asked board members on Thursday. "That's the way we're looking at this."

Over the Christmas Holiday break, Brown says workers installed simple door buzzers at every elementary school in the district, including Carver Elementary, to provide an extra layer of protection.

But by the end of January, Brown says every school will be fitted with more sophisticated door buzzers that feature a remote control lock system, intercom function, and surveillance cameras.

At Thursday's meeting Brown did not have cost figures for the buzzers immediately available. Future plans could also include automatic fire doors, and sturdier glass to slow or prevent a potential shooter or threat from gaining access to a school.

Brown also explained plans to administer emergency training to every employee within the district, as opposed to just the administrators who received the training before.

"I have received consent from Sheriff [Kenny] Boone," Brown explained, "to put every staff through the training... administrators went through last summer."

Brown also told board members he believes it would be wise to have additional police officers to patrol the schools, but right now it's unclear in what capacity that might occur. Hiring additional, dedicated resource officers would create an additional cost $90,000 in salary and equipment costs per officer, Brown explained.

By Brown's figures, the first year with additional officers would cost around $1.3 million combined, and roughly $850,000 a year after that.

"It's all about making sure we're not an easy target," Brown said.  "Anything to slow [a potential threat] down, that's what we're after."

Now, Brown says the school board must decide if they want to fork out the money for extra resource officers, and where that money potentially come from.

Stay tuned to WMBF News for more information on this story as the district continues to develop their safety plans.

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