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TCSS approves emergency alert system

The Troup County School System approved an emergency alert badge system, as well as air quality devices that can detect vaping or smoking.

Funds from the American Rescue Plan are expected to be used for both purchases.

The emergency alert badges will be worn by all employees. In an emergency situation, they could be pressed to alert of a problem on campus.

The wearable badges are through Centegix and would cost $961,400 over a five-year period, according to Assistant Superintendent Chip Medders.

“That price tag I think is very high, but then again … one incident, if it got out of hand with a significant injury or worse, this price tag would look very small,” said board member Joe Franklin.

Medders said that around 2,000 school districts in the southeast are using the Centegix devices, including 70 in Georgia. Medders specifically named Coweta, Carroll, Fayette and Pike county school systems.

“We think this will give teachers more peace of mind,” said Superintendent Brian Shumate at Monday night’s work session. “This concept of a teacher having a badge on their lanyard where they can hit this button and get immediate assistance, basically for any kind of disturbance at a school — a kid gets injured, a kid has a seizure, teachers try to attend to the kid — they don’t have to run to the telephone.”

The air quality devices, made by Surelock Technology, would be placed in bathrooms and locker rooms and could measure air quality, picking up on uses of vapes and cigarettes, Medders said.

Medders said Monday in bullying situations they could be programmed to go off if a certain word was uttered so that the principal would be alerted. They would also go off for loud noises or abnormalities.

“Is it going to prevent vapes in our schools? No,” Medders said Monday. “Is it going to make people understand that we are serious about it? I think so.”

Medders said TCSS would start by placing them at Callaway Middle School and Troup High School.  The price of $84,080 would be locked in for 120 days, so if they work well, TCSS would plan to buy more. The initial shipment would include 80 devices, with each covering an area of 12×12 feet.

As part of the theme on student safety, Steve Heaton, the district’s athletic director and school safety coordinator, presented the work TCSS is doing to keep students safe.

Heaton said fire drills are conducted twice in the first 30 days of school and once a month thereafter, weather drills are conducted twice a year and lockdown drills are conducted quarterly.

Site safety visits are completed once a year by law enforcement, emergency management and the fire department, Heaton said.

“We try to breach the schools, which means we try to enter the schools without keys. We try to find unlocked doors, unlocked windows, and I’m proud to say this year that we had very few doors that were open,” Heaton said.

Heaton also discussed safety system training that occurred on June 8, which included fire extinguisher training, gang identification training and active shooter training.

“I believe those types of exercises are extremely important. I think we have lockdowns down pat. I think we do an outstanding job as a school system and as a staff of making sure our students are safe in a lockdown. The problem is that’s in a sterile environment. We do that four times a year ,and everybody knows what they are supposed to do, but when you have gunfire in a school that changes the context completely,” Heaton said. “When you have people yelling and screaming, knocking on doors, saying let me in, let me in, let me in… that changes the context of what can happen in a school in a matter of minutes. I think it’s important for staff to see that and that they understand what they are supposed to do … so it becomes second nature if we have an event.”

TCSS will also have behavioral threat analysis training on July 19 and will have a safety in schools forum in September. The safety in schools forum will be led by Max Schachter, founder and executive director of Safe Schools for Alex, who will talk about what was learned in the Parkland, Florida shooting. Max’s son, Alex, was one of the 17 people killed in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.