Remote school still feels safe

Jan. 13, 2013 @ 11:50 PM

Sevier County Schools have installed new video intercom systems in an attempt to make the schools safer, but will the extra line of security make a difference at such remote schools like Jones Cove Elementary?

A considerable drive separates Jones Cove Elementary from any law enforcement agency in the county, so response time would be slow unless a unit was already in the area, though Sevier County Sheriff Ron Seals did say units from his office regularly patrol all zones in the county.

In any case, Principal Kim Conrad assured that, in the event of an emergency, everyone at her school will be prepared.

“(Law enforcement) will get here as quick as they can, but we have our plan in place and our students are aware of what to do in an emergency,” Conrad said. “I’m sure that we will do all we can do. We have a great emergency plan and I think we are prepared as best as we can be.”

She said the school performed an emergency drill Thursday, “and the students did great.”

The intercom system, she said, adds yet another layer of security to an already efficient emergency plan, and, at the very least, it makes everyone feel safer.

“I absolutely love it, and I already feel more secure,” Conrad said. “The students and staff feel more secure because it’s easy to monitor who’s coming to the building.”

The intercom system, which was installed at Jones Cove Elementary on Tuesday, allows all school doors to be locked at all times.

After this first line of security, the school’s resource officer is next. His post is situated at the intersection of the main hallway and the short corridor leading to the front doors, so he can observe the front doors and both sides of the hallway.

The school’s secretary responds to the intercom, and either unlocks the front door if there are no issues or, if there are, summons the resource officer to answer the door.

So far, there have been no intercom-related issues at Jones Cove Elementary. Conrad said it hasn’t discouraged anyone from coming to the school, and even if parents are in a hurry, the intercom system won’t be a huge hindrance.

“It’s almost like ringing a doorbell,” Conrad said. “You’re talking about five seconds, so even if a parent needs to rush in, you’re talking about five seconds.”

The parents, in fact, “have been really supportive of the intercom system,” Conrad said.

“I’ve heard nothing but good comments from parents,” she said. “Parents, staff and even students have commented on how much more secure they feel.”

Sandy Hook Elementary School also had a video intercom system, which had just recently been installed before the shooting, according to a CBS New York article. But a heavily armed person with intentions to kill likely does not plan to follow the rules. Adam Lanza did not use the video intercom system at Sandy Hook Elementary; he blasted his way into the building.

So will a buzzer system really prevent a disaster like the shooting in Newtown, Conn.? Conrad doesn’t know for sure, but she is confident that her staff will do whatever it takes to keep the school safe.

“There’s always going to be that threat; it’s always there, but we will do all we can to prevent it,” Conrad said. “You can always tweak your plan, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We continue to update.

“Yes, someone can shoot the door in, but that does give you a little time, and that gives us extra time to respond.”

rhargett@themountainpress.com