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Fri January 17, 2014
WSFC Schools Security Mapping System Serves as Prototype for State
Some members of N.C. Governor Pat McCrory’s Task Force on Safer Schools visited Walkertown High School in Forsyth County Thursday to see a demonstration of the school’s security mapping system. The program is one of several initiatives state education leaders plan to implement statewide.
Members of the Piedmont Triad Education Consortium held a meeting at Walkertown High School to discuss safety ideas and concerns in the region’s school districts.
During the event, they had the opportunity to see how Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School officials, law enforcement and other agencies can use a computer based mapping system to respond to a crisis at the school.
The password protected system is combined with security cameras. It allows school officials and law enforcement to monitor activity inside and outside the building 24 hours a day by using an app on their cell phones or other devices.
“Most of these maps have already been constructed because almost all of the counties have mapping systems of the schools and buildings, so you don't have to start from scratch. It was amazingly easy once we got all of the right partners at the same table,” said Buddy Collins, a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board and the governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools.
The mapping demonstration got the attention of Ben Mathews, Director of Safe and Healthy Schools with the Department of Instruction. He says state leaders are working hard to get the system in every public school in the state.
“As a result of what is going on here in Forsyth County, the entire state is moving in that direction. In fact, my office has sent out a memo to all of the public schools in North Carolina to be sure that they have or will get floor plans for all of their buildings, so we can put those in place. That way, if a shooter or terrorist happens to be there they could locate them and not get lost. It would speed up the process as well,” said Mathews.
Some smaller, rural school districts say they are worried about the cost to install the system. WSFCS used more than $1-million set aside from a 2006 bond referendum to install the system in its schools.
“The camera topic was interesting because we learned some ways to take our analog cameras and make them work with a digital system. But one simple thing I think school districts need to do is just walk through your school and see if your doors work or the panic system button works,” said Bill Holcomb, Associate Superintendent for Rockingham County Schools.
The audience also included officials with the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools. Gov. Pat McCrory created the center last March, shortly after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The center has been collecting information from schools, law enforcement, and other agencies throughout the state to develop a comprehensive approach to school safety. The information was used to create a report that lists dozens of recommendations, including expanding bullying prevention programs and collaborating with mental health agencies to create more support services.
The state is also investing in more manpower. The legislature has set aside $8-million in grant funding to help school districts hire more school resource officers. Mike Anderson is a safety specialist for the Center for Safer Schools. He’s also a former SRO.
“Eighty-one to 85 percent of school shooters actually tell one person prior to the act, so these kids know and they want to tell somebody, but they are afraid to tell somebody because of the repercussions that can come back on them,” said Anderson.
Anderson says the state Department of Public Safety is developing a special app for students to anonymously report bullying or threats. A new radio communication system is also in the works. The first round of training sessions for that will take place in the spring.