Amherst County School Board members took a look last Thursday at architectural renderings of security improvements in the works for all public schools.
Assistant Superintendent William Wells presented the drawings to each board member for the projects to upgrade security by installing vestibules — small foyer-like rooms leading into larger open areas in schools. Superintendent Rob Arnold has said the goal of the project is to make entering schools more difficult for an intruder and adds more layers of defense.
The way schools are set up now, if someone enters a school they don’t immediately have to encounter an adult and vestibules would bring visitors directly into a main office area.
The board in November approved a resolution designating $250,000 generated through the sale of the former Pleasant View Elementary School to a neighboring property owner to go to the capital improvement measures geared toward school safety.
Wells said once vestibules are built visitors would be buzzed into the main office after getting an approved pass. Teachers would be able to enter with their cards, he said.
“Most schools are pretty straightforward,” Wells said of adding vestibules without significant work.
Amherst Middle School, the Amherst Education Center and Amherst, Amelon, Central and Temperance elementary schools have a simple storefront model. Elon Elementary, Madison Heights Elementary and Monelison Middle School are “more tricky” due to their layouts. Wells said the division is closely working with architects to figure out how to fit the vestibules in those three schools.
MHES has a hallway between the front entrance and the main office so new doors would be put in and a buzz system would be implemented, according to Wells. “Once you come in that front door, the only place you can go is that main office,” he said.
Elon Elementary and Monelison Middle also will take a bit more work but the most dramatic change is proposed for Amherst County High School, Wells said. Plans call for a new entrance that would bring all visitors through the main office area, which currently is down a hallway after entering the front entrance and taking a left.
The work would include a total redesign of the school’s main office. “That is the most invasive of what we’re doing in the schools as far as change,” Wells said. “The other changes are pretty simple.”
He said he feels good about the division’s financial position in regard to most of the work but ACHS, the division’s largest school with more than 1,000 students, will require more review.
Much of the work is planned for summer break, said Wayne Cocke, supervisor of maintenance and operations.