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Johnston County Schools outlines $1 million in safety improvements

SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) - A plan to implement about $1 million in safety improvements in the Johnston County school district was outlined Friday by the school superintendent.

According to the video blog for Dr. Ross Renfrow, three phases are set to make the schools more secure.

The first two phases involve adding controlled access and exterior cameras to schools without them. The last phase is adding key fobs and card swipes at schools.

The district is working to get 12 more School Resource Officers. This would require a grant, according to Renfrow.

Renfrow also looked to the General Assembly to see if the legislators will do anything from their end to add more officers at schools.

While the superintendent references the cost for the phases will be from the district's local budget, he also notes that the district will seek out funding by partnering with county commissioners and does not know what their response will be.

The first phase of the security plan is set to be completed in May.

Below is a text news release from the school system about the security plans:

As you can imagine there has been a tremendous outpouring of suggestions and emotion with regards to safety and security for our district following the tragic events that occurred in Florida. We appreciate your willingness to engage with us about this critical issue.

We have been reflecting, listening, researching, investigating, collaborating, and formulating a plan to address the current and future needs. I would like to thank administrators across the district for their innovative efforts to safeguard our schools.

In order to move forward in educating our children while also securing their physical and emotional wellbeing, we are implementing security updates across the district in three phases.

  • Phase 1 Controlled-access for all schools currently without this feature. The vendor will begin assessing the controlled-access projects this week with completion within the next 60-75 days. This will cost approximately $140,000 from our local budget.
  • Phase 2 Exterior cameras for those schools without them at this time. This project will start immediately with the cost being in the neighborhood of $150,000. Monies will be utilized from our local budget.
  • Phase 3 Key fobs and card swipes for all exterior entry doors. This may look different from elementary to middle to high. This will cost us locally, an estimated $600,000.

Additionally, we have put in place several immediate security measures including recording incoming calls and issuing JCPS identification badges for all employees, including temporary staff.

An estimated $1 million will have to be spent on these security improvements. Please know that we will do what it takes to find funding to fortify our facilities because this is a top priority for Johnston County.

We intend to partner with our county commissioners in funding these specific projects, but it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on their collective response in dollars and cents.

Furthermore, we continue to partner with municipalities within our county in seeking a grant that will place 12 additional School Resource Officers in our schools. We eagerly await the General Assembly's response as we have heard they are considering SRO's in each public school in North Carolina.

Again, this is speculative at this time. We also are engaging parent groups as well as concerned citizens with ideas of placing retired law enforcement, military, and emergency management personnel in each site as another layer of protection during the school day. Again, this is in the formative stages with much learning to take place on this possible initiative.

We pledge to continue to work together to help you and your families feel comfortable and safe in our schools, so students and staff can continue to focus on student learning.

Thank you for working together as a community on behalf of the safety and security of all.

Dr. D. Ross Renfrow

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