Jan. 12 — Following the news of a 17-year-old opening fire on staff and students last week at Perry High School — killing an 11-year-old and injuring seven others — administrators at Newton Community School District have received numerous phone calls from parents asking about security measures in all buildings.
Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger addressed some of those questions and concerns during the Jan. 8 school board meeting. The door systems in each school, he said, send notifications to the building administrator and other district staff in the instance a door is left open or even propped open.
Principals also utilize crisis software in the event a catastrophic incident or an active shooter event were to occur. The company who was hired to conduct digital mapping of all the schools finished the work this past summer; Messinger said that mapping information is crucial for first responders.
"The maps show everything from where the power supplies are in the building to fire extinguishers where there are cameras and also doors that have a scan system," Messinger said. "So it's just a lot better source of information for different emergency service providers to utilize."
School administrators met last week and are now reviewing emergency plans with staff. Messinger said all school districts and law enforcement agencies in Jasper County will be meeting again soon to review their district crisis plans, which will also bring about consistency across all districts.
In response to Messinger's comments, school board member Travis Padget asked what schools are doing for mental health care for students.
"I know we've heard it at home," Padget said. "Kids know something happened if they don't know a lot of details. I just want to make sure we're providing that support for anyone that might need that support, because school is becoming a more scary place to be."
Messinger said the district always has referrals available if counselors and teachers see students beginning to act differently. Elementary guidance counselors have also put together a resource kit for these types of events in order to walk through the experience with kids.
"We also have referrals going home to families," Messinger told Padget, who later requested the information be pushed out again. "It's through EFR (Employee and Family Resources), the student assistance program. But we also make it available and make sure families know of that on a regular basis."
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