Johnston County school leaders discuss funding for new security measures

Johnston County News

Johnston County school leaders are taking steps to improve security but still trying to find the funding to support all the measures they want to implement.

At a meeting Tuesday, the school board picked a company to install a key fob system on exterior doors at the county’s schools, which is estimated to cost about $500,000.

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The board still has to approve a contract with the company. School leaders also said Tuesday they’ll soon begin recording all incoming telephone calls.

It’s part of a $1.3 million plan unveiled following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.

“It’s alerting us that we’ve got to do something here,” said school board Chair Michael Wooten. “We want our teachers and students to be safe because they can’t learn if they don’t feel safe and secure.”

School leaders want to implement a three-phase system that includes installing: cameras at all schools, controlled access at front doors as well as key fobs and card swipe systems on all exterior doors.

“We’d like for all three phases to be done before the end of this school year, but funds dictate how quick we can do it,” said Wooten.

School leaders are still in discussions with county commissioners.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first since a security incident at West Johnston High School earlier this month.

Investigators say seven teenagers came to the school to meet a student and went inside when she didn’t come out to meet them. A school resource officer stopped them. The incident triggered a lockdown, which panicked some students and families.

No one was injured. Sheriff’s deputies charged the teens with trespassing.      

“People are afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to come in here,” said board Vice-Chair Dorothy Johnson.

Courtnay Weeks, who has a fourth-grader, says she worries about how easily people can get into schools.

“I feel like even as a parent, they know me. I’m there regularly. I should have to show an ID to get in the school. It should be harder for them to get to our kid,” she said. “All schools need to have armed security guards.”

School administrators are trying to get grant funding to hire an additional 12 school resource officers.

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