With student safety being of the utmost importance, Bartow County Schools' campus police department is working on ways to answer one of Dr. Phillip Page's first questions when he became superintendent: Are our schools as safe as they possibly can be?
To help answer that question, School Police Chief Randall Burch and Page hosted a school safety breakfast Monday at the IHOP in Cartersville to bring together representatives from local law enforcement agencies, the Georgia State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as school resource officers and high school principals to discuss what, if any, campus security issues need to be addressed.
"It provided an opportunity for Dr. Page and other Bartow County school administrators to see firsthand how committed law enforcement officers are to the safety of Bartow County schools," Burch said. "Representatives from five Bartow County law enforcement agencies, plus representatives from the state and federal level, set aside time to meet and discuss what can be done to make our schools as safe as possible. This was a great opportunity to sit and speak one on one, sharing ideas with local LEO leaders."
The chief said the meeting also gave him "an opportunity to express how grateful we are for their commitment and daily assistance."
Page has been working with his leadership team and stakeholders on ways to improve campus security, and he said he wanted to have the breakfast to "continue the discussion of school safety with esteemed individuals who serve and protect our community."
"We strengthened our relationship with local law enforcement agencies, Georgia State Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation," he said. "Many ideas and conversations were generated regarding closing gaps that may be present in our district and local school plans."
The law enforcement officials also discussed training, facilities and resources as related to school safety as well as the best ways for the system to use the $113,840 in bond funds it received from the state this month to enhance safety measures, such as installing fencing, security doors or camera systems, at its 20 schools, central office and other sites.
"At this time, we’re continuing to vet which measures will be most valuable to the Bartow County School System," Page said, noting new measures will be implemented during the 2018-19 school year.
In the meantime, Burch is encouraging students, parents and members of the community to report threats or illegal activity anonymously to the district's hotline — 770-606-5190 or text or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I want to emphasize the use of our tip line and the importance of sharing information," he said. "I can assure the public that the information we receive will be investigated."
Burch also said he plans to have campus police officers at the middle and high schools during open houses this summer to answer any questions parents or students might have.
"Bartow County school police officers do everything in their power to make sure students return home safely each day," he said. "It’s our vision, commitment and goal."
Also attending the breakfast, which Page hopes will become a quarterly event, were Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap, Adairsville Police Chief Mike Jones, FBI agent Bryant Hill, GSP Post 3 Sgt. Kyle Tanner, Emerson Police Chief Kyle Teems, Euharlee Police Chief Lee New, White Police Chief Dane Hunter and Sgt. Chris Barnes, school police officers Mark Corbin and Donnie Scott and Principals Dr. Wes Dickey from Woodland High and Dr. Paul Sabin from the Bartow County College and Career Academy.