By John L. Ross, Staff Writer
Getting on the same page — that’s the goal of a newly-formed committee concerning safety in the schools, according to Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird.
After the tragedy in Connecticut, Williamsburg Independent Schools decided to review its safety policies, and the schools got some help from the Williamsburg Police.
That led to a practice drill at the school Dec. 17, which Bird said went well.
In an effort to stay vigilant concerning student safety in school, a committee was formed to include emergency management, police and fire departments, school personnel, board members and parents.
The first meeting of this new committee was Monday, with more than a dozen in attendance.
“It’s a huge step in the right direction,” Bird said. “We can’t stop (a tragedy) from happening — we can only deter, and plan, and be prepared.
“Hopefully, this committee will be able to do that.”
Superintendent Denny Byrd agreed. “There’s no way to prevent it,” he said. “But when it comes to safety, we don’t mess around.”
Byrd said he felt the first meeting went well. “It was mostly an informative meeting,” he said.
During the meeting, Byrd said diagrams of the school facility were provided. Chief Bird said since the new addition, the updated diagrams were needed.
Procedures for emergency management were also shared with attendees.
While Byrd was pleased with the turnout, he looks to get more entities involved. “We want to get (University of the Cumberlands) involved,” he said. “We want parental involvement, too.”
Several safety avenues were discussed during Monday’s meeting. “Some of these things we were already doing,” Byrd said.
Some of those avenues included lock down procedures, evacuation procedures, outside and inside safety measures, and staff training, which would include substitute and student teachers.
“Everyone knows the procedures,” Byrd said. “Right now we’re just re-tweaking everything — we’ll continue to do things better that way.”
During the Christmas break, special emergency training was held in the school with emphasis on what to do if an active shooter was on campus.
According to Chief Bird, the Christmas break training went really well. “It gave officers a chance to get into the new addition at the school,” he said. “We’ve always trained in the old building, but now we’ve gotten familiar with (the addition).”
Bird said he wants all emergency personnel prepared when it comes to emergency or crisis management, especially when it comes to actions after an emergency situation. “We’re trying to involve all community (entities) and resources to have everybody on the same page,” he said. “That way, if or when there’s an emergency, everything will be in place and everyone will know exactly what we need to do.
“We will know how the school will react, and the school will know how we will react,” he added.
He said this initial meeting was “thrown together pretty quick,” but that more meetings are expected. “Every head over an emergency agency is certainly going to be on this committee,” Bird said. “We expect (the committee) to grow.”
The highest priority is the students. “The ultimate goal is the safety of every child in school,” he said.
He added that his department has been on campus more. “Since Connecticut happened, we’ve increased our presence at the school,” Bird said. “Already we’ve heard parents and students feel better with the added presence.”
He said often, school shootings grab national attention, but that the attention span is short. “Usually schools get all concerned about it for a few weeks,” he said. “And then they go back to being complacent.
“We need to stick with and stay on top of it,” Bird added.
At the first meeting, school representatives present were Byrd, Principal Gary Peters, Secondary Dean Michael Abbott, Elementary Dean Steven Young and Transportation Director Ralph Prewitt.
Others on hand for the new committee were Bird, Officer Jim Pool, Mayor Roddy Harrison, Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley, Kentucky Emergency Management Director Jerry Rains, Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses, Williamsburg City Fire Chief Jim Privett and Whitley County 911 Director Charles Davis.
The committee next meets Jan. 21.