Glynn County Schools has invested a significant amount of money and training into school safety efforts and plans to continue doing so.
A new school year will begin Thursday, and school leaders have spent the summer ensuring that students will return to safer school settings.
Staff at all levels, including school resource officers, receptionists, bus drivers and more, have gone through forms of emergency response training.
The school system is also making plans to invest recently acquired grant money into new security for school facilities.
Gov. Brian Kemp pushed for the security grants during this year’s state budgeting process. Each public school in the state will receive $30,000 to put toward improving school safety. The money must be spent on an individual school basis, by June 30, 2020.
“We have to build a budget and define what those requirements are according to the schools,” said Jim Pulos, assistant superintendent for operations and administrative services for Glynn County Schools. “We’re in the process of doing that.”
Grant have been provided for all high schools, middle schools and elementary schools in the system, as well as Morningstar Academy and the Golden Isles College and Career Academy.
Glynn County Schools plans to use the grant money to install vestibules in some school buildings, in order to better control visitors’ access to the buildings.
In emergency situations, security measures that cause delay can crucial, Pulos sad. Those kinds of safety measures can prevent the unthinkable.
“I would never want anything like that to ever happen, but to me that is a great use of our grant,” Pulos said. “Our schools have cameras for the most part, and our schools have these accesses. This is just one more measure.”
The average response time for an outside law enforcement agency is about three minutes, Pulos said. The more barriers in place to prevent a crisis, the better, he said.
Glynn Academy’s campus presents its own unique safety challenges, but security improvements have been in the works for years. A project will soon wrap up to completely gate off the college-like campus, and gates will soon be installed to prevent access through Mansfield Street.
Glynn County Schools is unique to have at least one SRO in every school. The SROs are also provided with more training than the state requires.
“We’re so blessed to be able to have an SRO at all of our schools,” Pulos said.
For the past several years, Glynn County Schools’ SROs have received at least 40 hours worth of training every year, said Rod Ellis, Glynn County Schools police chief.
The training covers the full circle of school safety, he said.
“It focuses on the whole gamut of school safety, from the building assessments, human threat assessments, emergency response, emergency preparedness, assisting with first aid type stuff, fire safety,” Ellis said.
He plans to increase training this year, and school officers may have close to 100 hours of training by the end of the year.
“This is 40 hours before they ever go back,” Ellis said. “The state of Georgia says that we’ve got to have 20 hours. Most of my officers have got in the neighborhood of 65 hours, on average, of training.”
SROs play a different role than a standard law enforcement official. They are also in schools to provide support to students.
“It’s everything from dealing with a student in crisis … all the way up to the most complex of issues,” Ellis said.
He asks his officers to be both safety and service minded.
“When it comes to school public safety, our motto has always been ‘School safety is our concern,’” Ellis said. “… But our theme this year is that ‘When it comes to school safety, we’re your friend in the business.’”