MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Madison County Schools spent the summer preparing buildings and making important safety upgrades where they're most needed. The district will continue some of that work in the coming weeks in each school.
"We want people to have access to the front office, but we don't want them to have access to the students," remarked Kerry Wilkerson, Madison County Schools Chief Operations Officer. Wilkerson said he is passionate about student safety, adding, "We want parents not to worry and to know their kids are safe during the day."
Some of the changes include adding a barrier between the front door and the entry hall to schools that didn't have them before, Wilkerson said. At Buckhorn, they constructed a glass wall with doors that are only accessible by keycard or front office permission.
"We have keycard entries on all of our major doors. So you only get in if you're a teacher or administrator," said Wilkerson. "Now, we have a second barrier," he added. "We put a film on this glass too."
That film is called Eversafe Security Film, a security laminate distributed by a Madison company, Eversafe Security Solutions. The Director of Security Operations tells us that it may not be completely bulletproof, but it will keep glass from becoming shrapnel when bullets or other ballistic projectiles hit it. "Eversafe Films help hold glass together, creating a barrier that will help slow any attempt to gain access," the website reads. Madison County Schools will continue to put this in its schools as the weeks go on, Wilkerson said.
The school system is also going around to each school and upgrading the front office software to allow for a thorough check-in process.
Identification-scanning software and more front entrance cameras give them a clear view of who is asking to get into the school.
"Whether it's a custody issue or whether they're a fugitive, it'll pop up right there," Wilkerson said of the ID check. "If you want to enter this school, we are going to take your license, we are going to run it through a scanner. It takes 15 or 20 seconds. And it'll pop out and tell us everything we need to know about you. What's most important is if you're on any type of list, you won't be entering the school."
The district is adding digital speakers to schools, too. They want to be able to communicate with the entire campus if there's a lockdown or situation. We found some at Riverton Elementary, although Wilkerson did not wish to reveal which other buildings had them due to security reasons.
"Sometimes we don't want people coming back in the school if we have a situation. So we can alarm inside and outside the buildings now." Wilkerson added, "We are still adding additional intercom systems, phone systems, and speaker systems. If they don't have it at this moment, they'll have it real soon."
But with all the changes they've made, or are still making, comes the reality of what could happen. Leaders can't forget what they guard against.
Wilkerson explained how it feels to fortify a school: "It's tough. Because at any time, you could lose a child if things don't go right. So, we make sure the best we can, that they are right."