Safety review cites areas of need for city schools

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, April 29, 2012

Brookhaven School District leaders got some sobering news Tuesday night regarding emergency preparedness plans for schools and students.

     A state education department evaluator warned that had the safety and emergency response check been an official assessment visit, the district would have failed. The district appears to have averted an accreditation stumbling block and is now ready to tackle the issues presented.

     Among the most potentially concerning items cited, at least from a parenting standpoint, is a lack of designated evacuation sites at each school.

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     One of the most frightening experiences for parents is not knowing where their child is in times of emergency. Having a specific space for relocating students following any needed evacuation will go a long way toward alleviating any potential parental fears in the future.

     Other issues presented during the school board meeting involved a lack of campus visitor control, ease of access to school facilities and a lack of designated school resource officers, although police officers do patrol several city campuses.

     And the Mullins building, home of the district’s alternative school, is in need of attention. The state official said he had “huge concerns” about the efficiency of the facility, and an earlier maintenance evaluation also called for improvements there.

     To be sure, Brookhaven School District administrators, principals and teachers have not been sitting on their hands for years and ignoring student safety and emergency response efforts. The fact that police officers are on campus and principal-initiated emergency response measures are in place at some schools supports that conclusion.

     However, the current situation is clearly not up to snuff with state regulations. The state report provides guidance on where attention is needed to improve safety and emergency preparations for all involved.

     In order to know where you’re going, you need to know where to begin. Brookhaven school leaders now have that starting point.