Safety was the message of the night Tuesday as the Forsyth County Board of Education was presented the first safety audit from the Forsyth County School Safety Task Force, which was commissioned by Superintendent Jeff Bearden and Sheriff Ron Freeman earlier this year.
During the board meeting, Forsyth County Schools Chief Operations Officer Todd Shirley presented a number of findings and recommendations to the board concerning the facilities, staffing and training at county schools.
Most notably the board was presented with a recommendation to reallocate almost $5 million in bond funding to “expand district-wide safety projects to approximately $7 million.”
"It is imperative that our schools continue their 'See Something, Say Something' campaign; it is imperative that our schools continue the outstanding work in school climate and culture; it is imperative that our stakeholders support, enhance and nurture invited communities while maintaining the highest level of safety for all students and staff members," Shirley said to the board and crowd.
Shirley’s presentation first recommended that several upgrades be made to school facilities including additional camera systems, lockdown buttons, emergency medical equipment, double entries and smarter security screening technology.
The presentation also recommended support for the hiring of additional staff including school resource officers, Social Emotional Learning personnel and staff to work with high risk students identified within schools.
“While I do believe we need to implement the facility recommendations, I do want to be clear: The greatest problem facing schools today is not the safety of our school buildings," Bearden said during the presentation. "The greatest problem we have is that we have students in crisis throughout our nation who believe that harming themselves, or others, or both is a viable option. We have to change that mindset."
Shirley also recommended in the presentation a battery of additional training within the school and the county covering Code Red Lockdowns, See Something, Say Something and other school procedures.
The presentation ended with words from Freeman, who spoke on what role the Sheriff’s Office played in the safety audit and what role they would play in the school system’s future.
"It is a joint responsibility for this board and for me to keep our school children safe and keep our county safe," Freeman said. “But what I loved about this is we put a cross section into this. We didn't just think like cops, we didn't just think like educators, we brought a cross section across the board, and you see some of the fantastic ideas that came out of that.”