DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Parents, students, educators, elected officials and public safety personnel gathered at Dawson County Junior High School Thursday for a timely discussion about what is being done and what more can be done to ensure the safety of county schools.
It has been less than a month since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 students and faculty. Since then, terroristic threats have been reported at schools in Dawson, Forsyth, Hall, White, and Gwinnett counties.
Dawson County School Superintendent Dr. Damon Gibbs began last night’s discussion by stating, “What we are here to do tonight is to hear from the community and what you folks want us to implement in our schools.”
Gibbs then reviewed some of the measures the school system has put in place to help safeguard county schools, including controlling traffic flow after school begins, replacing key access points with electronic access, and installation of video cameras and monitoring systems.
“The average school in our county has only one door on the outside of the building that is unlocked each and every day and that is at the front of the school. It will lead visitors into a security vestibule,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs believes the replacement of key access points by electronic access points has helped make schools safer. In the past, lost keys were a problem. “Whoever found it would have access to every door on campus,” he said.
“We also have visitor check-in stations at the schools. Every time you check in to a school and use your driver’s license, it is scanned and run through a sex offender database. If it gets a hit, it won’t print a visitor ID and without that ID, you can’t get into our building,” Gibbs continued.
Dawson County Fire Chief Lanier Swafford said the school system conducted an active shooter drill at Dawson County High School in October with representatives from each school present along with the county’s Emergency Services Department and Sheriff’s Office.
“We also brought in the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) Homeland Security Safety Director for our area to evaluate the drill,” Swafford said. “That drill went very, very well. I, along with the GEMA coordinator and sheriff’s office, was impressed with the readiness of those present and how they reacted to the drill.”
The group then divided into “school specific” groups headed by the individual school principals.
Gibbs said, “After those meetings, we will compile all the information and make some recommendations along with the associated costs to our Board of Education and let the BOE and our leadership group make some decisions on some safety things we can implement.”
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