Following a meeting to introduce a Safe Schools Initiative on Wednesday, parent Melissa Riley said she is impressed with the collaboration of the Aiken County School District and law enforcement to prevent or when needed, to respond effectively to emergency situations in schools.


“I heard a lot of good information,” said Riley, who has a daughter at Aiken High School. “They have a real set plan and what they’re going to do if something does happen.”


“Safety drills have been an ongoing event in our district for ... the last 10 years,” School District Deputy Superintendent David Caver said. “We have three district-wide drills a year with our schools. On a monthly basis, the schools have their own fire drills and others for events like earthquakes and tornadoes.”


Capt. Eric Abdullah of the Aiken Department of Public Safety said all the agencies and the School District are striving to educate parents, students and faculty for a mutual understanding on how they will response to a critical incident.


In an initial survey of more than 1,200 teachers, many had said they were not prepared for an emergency, said Sgt. Selwyn DeLoach of the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office. After training throughout the district, “1,322 teachers said they were prepared,” he said. “Training works. We want them to fight for your kids and talk to kids and be leaders.”


One parent asked about the possibility of providing School Resource Officers to all the elementary and middle schools. That cost wold be prohibitive, said DeLoach, but the School District is working on barriers that can provide some measure of safety.


School officials anticipate that buzzer systems at schools will be installed over the next few months. Caver acknowledged the buzzers can only have an impact at the main entrance, but that can be effective at those locations.


The district is already providing tools to notify parents about an emergency or incident at a school – the district website at www.acps.schoolfusion.us., school websites, Facebook, Twitter and through the media. Caver said the district also will introduce the use of texts for parents if they give permission to received texts.


That will be a big help in providing accurate information, he and DeLoach said. Parents instinctively want to see their children and have the right to do so, DeLoach said, but their presence can create more complications for law enforcement and schools.


• An extended version of this article will be published on the Aiken Standard website Sunday.