It was the final meeting for Harris before new Superintendent Jeff Bearden takes the reins for the school system, and Harris said the heartbreaking events at Sandy Hook Elementary School shook school systems across the U.S.
“We hope and pray that we never have a tragedy anywhere else like we had in Connecticut,” Harris said, “but we wanted to take steps to review what we had in place and make sure that everyone is on the same page of knowing what to do if we should have a problem.”
Each principal at every school is already equipped with a radio they keep attached to them at all times that enables them to communicate with others throughout the school, he said. But the new radios, which will be effective on Jan. 21, will stay in principals’ offices in case an emergency — be it a gunman or weather-related — happens.
The radios have a red panic button on top which directly notifies Floyd County 911 officials that something is happening and the school is on lockdown.
On Dec. 19, Harris met with Chief Elaine Snow of the Rome Police Department to discuss increasing surveillance around all the schools. “In talking with Chief Snow, she has indicated that this will continue for an indefinite period of time,” he said. “The response time after a 911 call from the school is approximately two minutes. This means the officers are already patrolling close to our schools.”
He said the emergency procedures for all schools are reviewed and updated as necessary every year, and each school has two copies of those procedures. Schools’ visitors are required to check in at the main offices and will wear clear badges indicating who they are, he said.
On Jan. 2, Harris met with all principals and administrators, he said, to discuss emergency procedures. All teachers have been notified to lock their doors in a time of panic, and they also have designated safe places in their classrooms for students and themselves.
Harris added that select personnel will be stationed at one or two entrances at the schools to let in first responders.
Chairwoman Judy Sims referenced a quote on the tomb of the Known Soldier at Myrtle Hill Cemetery following the presentation.
“‘Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty,’ and we’ve seen this happen on a national, community and personal level,” she said. “So it’s really important that we adhere to the plans we’ve got.”
In other action:
Harris presented the SPLOST III results for the November 2012 tax period and said the amount collected was $400,556.09, with an anticipated amount of $502,729.50, indicating a shortfall of $102,173.41.
The cumulative amount collected, he said, was $18,215,384.29, with $21,617368.50 anticipated, indicating a shortfall of $3,401,984.21.