School officials reassure parents of safety in wake of Connecticut shooting

By Nicole Daughhetee
Courier Staff

COUNTY — Families of children who attend schools throughout Pickens County received a phone call from district superintendent Dr. Kelly Pew following the school shooting massacre that left 20 children and seven adults dead in Newtown, Conn., last Friday morning.

“The tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have left our hearts heavy for the families and community that were impacted,” Pew said in the message. “When an event of this nature occurs, we reflect on the safety plans we have in place within our schools to ensure the safety of our children.

“The principals and district administration believe that your child’s safety is our top priority. Our principals are always mindful of safety, but I have asked that we maintain a heightened awareness of safety in our schools.”

In addition to the normal safety procedures followed by schools in the School District of Pickens County, Pew assured parents and caregivers that all the exterior entrances to the schools would be locked and that principals would ensure that teachers keep individual classroom doors locked.

“As is our current practice, anyone volunteering in our schools will have up-to-date SLED checks,” Pew said. “You may be asked to show identification when participating in events or picking up a child. While this may be inconvenient, we ask for your cooperation as we work together to maintain the safety of our children.”

While safety has always been a top priority throughout the SDPC, the Sandy Hook massacre has served to heighten awareness about how students are kept safe while they are at school.

SDPC public information specialist John Eby said that secure entry is an issue that has been addressed in new construction and will continue to be implemented in buildings such as the new Pickens Middle School and is a feature being addressed in the renovation plans for Gettys Middle in Easley.

A secure entry is defined as a single public entrance to the school that is continually monitored by staff members.

“In the new high schools, you can only enter the rest of the school from the office after a staff member presses a button to unlock the door,” said Eby. “I believe all of the schools built through the 2006 building program have that feature.”