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Four more metal detectors deployed at HCHS, HCMS / July 12, 2018
Halifax County Public Schools have acquired four metal detectors to improve security at Halifax County high and middle schools in the coming year, and administrators and law enforcement personnel continue to look at ways to protect students and staff from the possibility of attacks on school property, Jeff Davis, director of student services, told members of the Halifax County School Board on Monday night.

At a brief meeting of the trustees in Halifax, matters of safety and security came up as educators make plans for the new school year. Davis and HCHS Principal Michael Lewis told trustees about steps being taken — especially at the high and middle schools — to prevent the possibility, however remote, of a mass shooting or other deadly incident on school grounds.

The four metal detectors will be stationed two each at HCHS and HCMS, said Davis, and visitors at the middle school will be required to follow revised procedures for enhanced student safety. Davis also said he and other members of the staff would be meeting this week with the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and South Boston Police Department to discuss other steps that can lessen the threat to local schools.

“We consider them to be the experts. We’re educators, not law enforcement,” said Davis.

One possibility, he added, is obtaining a grant to pay for a “floating SRO” — school resource officer — at county elementaries. Currently, only the middle and high schools have full-time school resource officers.

Educators will also attend a one-day workshop in September in Charlotte County, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education, to review measures for enhancing school security.

At the recommendation of trustee Todd Moser, Davis said he would look into attending a meeting of the House Select Committee on School Safety, created by Kirkland Cox, Speaker of the House of Delegates, to look into additional ways to harden Virginia’s schools against outside threats. The select committee is holding a public session in Danville next week.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg indicated he plans to attend the session.

ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd asked how metal detectors could be deployed at school events and during the school day without creating logjams for hundreds of people going through. “It would be hard to run 1,500 students through three metal detectors every morning,” Lewis acknowledged. One possibility suggested by ED-3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman would be to use hand wands to inspect persons flagged by the metal detectors, separating them from the main flow of foot traffic, so others can pass through unimpeded.

Lewis raised another possible step to keep weapons from school events: ban book bags at school events, or mandate the use of clear plastic bags that could pass a quick visual inspection.

Freddie Edmunds, ED-5, said he would like to see a “zero policy” requiring students and faculty to carry and display ID badges whenever they are on school property.

The School Board took no action on the matter Monday.

In other business:

» Lineburg said plans for new school facilities are continuing to undergo refinement and he expects a final set of proposals to unveil in August. Lineburg said plans for the high school are still being reviewed, and the same goes for the “much more complex discussion” of what to do about elementary school facilities, which are beset by a backlog of deferred maintenance projects that would require more than $20 million to complete.

Trustees listened as Mickeala Skelton, a 2012 HCHS graduate, offered her thoughts on what to do about HCHS. Skelton said the building is poorly designed, plagued by mold and vermin, and needs to be torn down, not renovated. She added that the air inside the high school had sickened her mother, a high school art teacher.

“I don’t believe renovating the high school will improve things in the long run … I urge you to knock down the current building and invest in the future by starting fresh,” Skelton told trustees.

After Skelton spoke, ED-8 trustee Walter Potts thanked her for her comments and said he agreed: “That’s a horror story,” he said about the account of mold and mice at the high school causing Skelton’s mother to develop respiratory problems. “I’ve heard it before.”

» Trustees voted unanimously to adopt a new sick leave policy that is backed by the Halifax Educational Association and grants sick leave pay to certain employees who were previously ineligible for the benefit.

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