April 23, 2014 - 08:35
School safety a topic
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School Safety plans were the topic of hot discussion at the Polk County School Board’s meeting last Monday night.

By Emily Dilbeck

School Safety plans were the topic of hot discussion at the Polk County School Board’s meeting Monday night.

Dr. James Jones, Director of Schools, gave the Board an overview of school policy regarding an emergency, saying concerns had been raised by parents and teachers alike following the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

Jones said each of Polk County’s schools is different and so plans were tailored to suit each school’s needs. For example, he explained, South Polk now requires visitors to buzz in before entering the school. Before visitors are allowed to enter, School Administrators can verify their i.d. thanks to a new camera system.

Jones added that each school practices an emergency drill once a month, but said he didn’t want to go into a lot of detail for fear of exposing too much information to the public. As well as addressing these issues, he said, Sheriff Bill Davis had visited the schools with some of his Deputies to suggest changes to safety plans and protocol.

The schools will also be re-evaluating their pre-k pick-up options. While it may make it a bit more cumbersome to pick-up a child, Jones believes it is entirely worth it in order to ensure better safety for the smaller children.

There is also some discussion of adding a wall at South Polk Elementary to divide the cafeteria from the school’s entrance. Jones said there was some concern about having visitors walk into an open space full of students and a wall would easily eliminate this problem.

Following Jones’s presentation, School Board member April Trantham, representing District 3, said she had some concerns to address regarding an alleged incident at Copper Basin High School last week.

Trantham said she had heard a woman, identified as a parent of a student, had supposedly been taking pictures in the school parking lot while students were outside. Students who were witnesses were then taken into Principal [Vice Principal] Turner’s office to give statements, Trantham said. She asked Copper Basin High School Principal Jared Bigham if he knew anything about this and what he planned to do about it.

Bigham said he hadn’t heard of anything; Jones said he hadn’t either. Trantham said the Sheriff’s Department had been called and wondered how Bigham couldn’t know. “He (Bigham) should be here taking care of the school,” she said.

“Now hold on a minute,” Dr. Jones responded, “he is here taking care of the school.”

Bigham asked Trantham if she had been at the school during the alleged incident and if she herself had seen what was going on.

Trantham said she hadn’t, but she was just telling the Board what the boys present at the time had told her.

Bigham responded by saying that if a teenager told her, it must have been gospel.

Trantham said she didn’t think it was gospel, but there was a rumor going around the school.

School Board Chairman Jayson Lamb, a Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy, told Trantham that usually when you investigate a case like this, there’s something more than what is rumored.

Trantham said she knew the parent who was supposedly taking pictures, but she wasn’t going to name any names. She wanted to know why Mr. Turner had called students into his office and why the Sheriff’s Department had gotten involved.

Jones said he didn’t think the Sheriff’s Department would have been called to the High School without he or Bigham knowing about it.

Bigham made a call to Turner after the meeting adjourned, then told the board Turner said he hadn’t called any students into his office and wasn’t aware of the situation either. As for the Sheriff’s Department, he added, they had been at the High School last week doing a regular check.

Jones and Bigham both said they welcomed any phone calls and would have been happy to hear Trantham’s concerns after the alleged incident.  

Trantham also asked Dr. Jones why the School Board did not receive invoices for his mileage. Jones said he only gets mileage for out of town trips, which he doesn’t make that often. He said he would be more than happy to provide an invoice, but usually it was just paid as a part of his salary.

School Board Member Mark Williams said this was probably just because they had included this as part of Jones’ contract and there hadn’t even been a need to approve a separate invoice. He added that it wouldn’t hurt for Jones to turn in an invoice. Jones said it wasn’t a problem and that from now one he would turn one in.

The School Board also discussed whether or not to approve opening enrollment for a Sick Leave Bank to Non-Certified school employees. School Board member Gary Silvers suggested that Dr. Jones write up a proposal and get it approved by the State and then present it to the Board. Jones said he would start working on it as soon as possible.

The Polk County School Board meets every 2nd Monday of the month at 7 pm, rotating between each of the schools.

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