Saturday, December 3, 2022

6 WJCC schools will have security improvements at front entrances

Stonehouse Elementary School (WYDaily/Courtesy of WJCC Schools)
Stonehouse Elementary School is one of six schools that will have a security vestibule constructed to enhance security. (WYDaily/Courtesy of WJCC Schools)

The Williamsburg-James City County School Division is continuing to bolster security at area schools.

The WJCC School Board recently voted unanimously to award a contract for nearly $360,000 to improve the security by adding entrance vestibules at six schools.

“Safety plans and protocols have always been in place in public schools,” school division spokeswoman Eileen Cox wrote in an email when asked whether the improvements are in response to shootings at schools. “As society has changed, so too have the safety measures in WJCC Schools.”

The vestibules will be newly constructed at each school and be securely contained. They will also have an “aluminum storefront glazing system” with secured doors, according to school board agenda documents. 

The improvements will be done at James River Elementary, Laurel Lane Elementary, Stonehouse Elementary, Berkeley Middle, Toano Middle and Lafayette High.

The addition of vestibules has been an ongoing project, meaning the other schools in the division no have vestibules in place.

“The redesign of building entryways adds an additional layer of security at schools which were constructed before vestibules were used as a way to better manage foot traffic in and out of buildings,” Cox wrote. 

The cost of renovations and improvements will range from about $46,000 to $68,000 for each school. The cost varies because each school is set up differently.

The total bid from contractor TST for the project was $359,650.81, which was the lowest of four bids. The school division had budgeted $645,214 in its fiscal year 2019 capital improvement plan.

While the school division said it does not share detailed information about safety plans, Cox said the addition of security vestibules will restrict open access to the entire building.

“Visitors are admitted through the vestibule to the main office where they check in and receive a visitor’s badge,” Cox wrote.

The school division also has other measures in place to protect students, Cox said.

All WJCC schools have security cameras in the buildings that can be accessed by police. Each school now has a buzzer entry for visitors and card key access for staff, and visitors must sign in through a computer-based system that checks visitor identification cards against sex offender databases.

There are also school resource officers at each middle and high school who can visit or respond to nearby elementary schools if needed. Middle and high school students also have staff trained to be security officers by the Department of Criminal Justice Services. 

Each summer, the division reviews and updates its crisis plans and threat assessment protocol.

“The school division has a school safety committee that is continually looking at what else the division can do to enhance security,” Cox wrote. “The committee is made up of school personnel and first responders from both the city and county. We are fortunate to partner with law enforcement and fire officials in these efforts. Their expertise is so valuable in the work we are doing.”

A petition circulating in favor of getting metal detectors at schools has been established by parents, but metal detectors currently are not a part of the division’s building security plan. 

In August, a school spokeswoman said WJCC did not plan to introduce metal detectors in the buildings, but they are used at some events such as football games.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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