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McMinn Co. schools security examined

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CALHOUN, TN (WRCB) - In the two months since the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, safety in schools has been on the forefront of conversation across the country. Many schools in our area are taking action.

Channel 3 tagged along with officials in McMinn County as they take an in-depth look to identify weak spots in security.

In McMinn County, school officials, the sheriff's office and the Athens Police Department are doing safety walkthroughs at all of its elementary schools to see what security improvements could be made in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

"It does cause us to turn around and look at our own circumstance and evaluate to do everything we can in our power to prevent that from happening here," McMinn County Director of Schools Mickey Blevins said.

Locks, cameras, visitor policies, hide out spots, and vehicle access are just some of the things law enforcement and school officials are taking a close look at. They started Friday scouring Calhoun Elementary. They're searching every nook and cranny in all ten elementary schools for any kind of gap in security that an intruder could use.

"How the doors lock, do they lock from the inside or the outside, where are the better areas for students and staff might take refuge," McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said.

Sheriff Guy has a safety assessment he's filling out for each school in order to compare what current proactive measures are and aren't working.

"Every school does things a little but differently, of course every school is structurally different," Sheriff Guy said.

Along with limiting access to the buildings and classrooms, they're also making plans on how to act fast and effectively if an emergency still happens, plus several back up plans.

"Every school, every business, every home has got an element of risk. What you want to do is try to identify the risk and figure out ways to either reduce it, or eliminate it completely," Sheriff Guy said.

"Maybe additional cameras, surveillance and that type thing and, yes, there may be the need for some structural changes such as more fencing, gates," Blevins said.

They agree the most important element is having all staff and emergency responders on the same page with policy, building layouts and schedules, down to the littlest details.

After finishing the security sweeps, Sheriff Guy says he's impressed overall and that their schools are already much safer than several years ago.

The group finished the last of their walkthroughs Friday, so now they'll make a report to present to the school board with recommendations.

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