Roanoke City Council receives update on school safety measures

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 7:48 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - School safety was front and center Monday morning, as members of Roanoke City Council sat down with their counterparts on the School Board.

“We want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to keep not only our students, but also our staff members safe,” said Superintendent Verletta White.

Meeting at Westside Elementary School, White and her senior staff outlined enhancements that include a number of physical improvements to school facilities.

“We requested and received permission to upgrade 731 locks that lock from the outside across our district,” said Director of Operations Chris Perkins, describing just one of the measures recently approved by the School Board.

The plan also includes legislation that would help schools and law enforcement respond to evolving threats, and mental health resources that could prevent violence in the first place.

“We are moving forward with all of these recommendations that provide us with a comprehensive approach to safety,” White told reporters. “We’re talking about the physical safety of students and staff, as well as their social, emotional and psychological safety. It’s all important.”

Council members offered favorable reviews.

“I do appreciate that we’re being proactive,” said council member Joe Cobb. “I think people are tired of reacting to these incidents.”

“This is being addressed. It’s being acknowledged,” said council member Anita Price.

“I like what’s being written, what’s being done now,” said Mayor Sherman Lea. “And I look forward to a safe school year.”

New door locks and a new camera system that will allow authorities to view video remotely could be in place by January. Automated lockdown systems will be installed as schools are renovated and replaced.

The school year will start with 16 school resource officers, and there are plans to increase their numbers, but staffing shortages continue to make it difficult to fill all of the positions.

Students return to Roanoke City Public Schools Tuesday, August 23.

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