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New school safety takes center stage

Staff Writer [email protected]

The concern for the safety and security of students is on the minds of not just members of the Washington County Board of Education, but also the Lewis Group Architects, architects for the new Jonesborough School.

At a board meeting Tuesday Aug. 2, after a recent assessment the group took of Washington County Schools, the Lewis Group presented their recommendations to the board, including those regarding safety.

“Our recommendations are the culmination, of all the information, or all the data and all our projections,” said Dr. Brian Bell, educational consultant for Lewis Group Architects. “Then we go through a planning process, we get our data, and our goal is to give you the most unbiased, objective recommendations that we can. And our goal is to improve Washington County schools for you.”

Jake Thomas, project manager for Lewis Group Architects, presented the safety plan for the new Jonesborough School.

“All exterior doors at the new Jonesborough School will have a door positioning switch on it, and you will be able to time how long that door is open, whether it be 10 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute,” Thomas explained. “If someone goes out and they prop the door open, it will alarm the board, wherever that is placed.”

Thomas said there are also access card readers going in all 11 main entry doors.

“We are making provisions in all the other doors, and the provision being it’s a conduit, to cut the power to the electric strike, just in case the money becomes available to add that at a later date,” he said. “The hardest part is getting the wires to everything, but we are making provisions for all of that.”

Board member Annette Buchanan said she feels that security is the first priority of the board.

“The Lewis Group has brought to the forefront the security issues of each school and now is a great opportunity to address those items,” she said.

The subject of safety for the Lewis Group Architects and the board reaches beyond the doors of the new Jonesborough School, and across the board for all Washington County Schools.

Director of Washington County Schools, Jerry Boyd, said maintaining and continuously improving a safe and secure environment for all Washington County Schools students and employees to learn and work is a top priority.

“The recommendation as a result of the facilities study to continue to enhance the many security measures already implemented in our schools across our district is completely aligned with our ongoing efforts to address physical and emotional needs of our students and educators in all of our classrooms, schools, and offices,” he said. “Though many of the security practices are and will continue to be ad- dressed in our annual operations, the need to add additional structures and protective barriers like secure vestibules to strength- en the management of access into and out of our schools will be an immediate goal addressed in our five-year capital improvement planning.

“This external assessment conducted by the Lewis Group Architects on behalf of the Washington County Board of Education will serve as an invaluable objective tool in guiding discussions and decisions relative to school safety, preventative maintenance, and capacity to serve our community for the future of our school system.”