Schools under Code Yellow through week
Although the end of the semester is just days away, there will be a sense of heightened security on the campuses of Clay Community Schools for the remainder of the week.
Following the horrific tragedy Friday, Dec. 14, when a lone gunman walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 26 people -- including 20 children -- Clay Community Schools (CCS) officials elected to have all buildings institute a Code Yellow, or soft lockdown, for the remainder of the week.
"We're emphasizing the plans we have in place," CCS Director of Buildings and Grounds Tom Reberger told The Brazil Times. "We sent a memo out (Friday) reminding everyone to review their plans. We're more concerned about someone who could be a copycat.
"All schools are operating under a Code Yellow," Reberger continued. "All extra doors will be locked once students are in the building. Everybody is on heightened alert. All the doors are locked, but this is our standard procedure as far as a lockdown."
Both Reberger and Northview High School Principal Ernie Simpson said there will be more of a law enforcement presence at the schools the rest of the week.
Reberger said CCS Assistant Superintendent Tim Rayle met with Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton Monday morning regarding the issue.
"(CCS officials) asked for officers to be at the schools. That is not an issue," Heaton told The Times. "We have one full-time officer assigned to school patrol for the rest of the week. (Other officers) who are working the road will be stopping by. We will continue to make plans for the future from here forward.
"We've done this off and on already, even prior to this," Heaton added.
Schools statewide are required to have at least one School Safety Specialist. However, Simpson said Northview has two specialists.
"We are blessed," Simpson said. "We're constantly revisiting our safety procedures, but we have taken additional steps this week in the wake of these horrific events, to make sure our building is secured to the highest degree possible."
At Northview, Simpson said in addition to the increased law enforcement visibility, school administrators are checking entry points "periodically to make sure all entry points are not propped open."
"We've even tightened security on the front entrance," he added. "People entering the building have to reveal their identity, the nature of their business ... We have advised staff they do have the right to deny entry. Normal class activities are still taking place. We're just being a little bit more guarded."
Forest Park Elementary School Principal Jon Russell told The Times the school sent a letter home with students for parents explaining safety procedures.
"We have a team in place," Russell said. "We have drills. We practice this. We actively practice our school safety plan. We have active safety security measures in place.
"We do have a crisis management team in place. We're just reassuring parents."
Russell added the crisis management team is made up of teachers, administrators and aides.
"Our (security and safety) plans must be annually reviewed," Russell said. "(The crisis management team) is part of that process."
Russell said the schools also have counselors in place should students need to discuss issues regarding the situation.
"We have counselors at our disposal," he said. "We have a support system in place if that need arises."
Simpson said the entire situation is "beyond sad."
"It's a sad commentary on our de-evolution as a society," Simpson said. "The first one that gained national attention (Columbine High School) ... that was very alarming because of the magnitude.
"I recall when I witnessed the news footage then, I thought that would be a one-time event. Unfortunately, there have been a number (of incidents). This has not been a one-time incident. In fact, the scope and severity seems to be increasing rather than that behavior being totally eradicated."
Heaton echoed Simpson's sentiments.
"It's sad and unfortunate," Heaton said. "I know a lot of people are on edge. This is one of those things that you hope never happens here, but there's the potential.
"My heart just goes out to those families. I couldn't even begin to imagine what they are going through."