Aiken County School District administrators have looked at school safety issues for many years, and in the past year, they have explored another layer of safety, Deputy Superintendent David Caver said on Wednesday.
District staffers have introduced a buzzer/camera system at some schools, and Caver is optimistic that all County schools will have that equipment by the Christmas holiday.
“Our places have done things where they could see the outside,” he said. “With the camera and buzzer, this will standardize it. The folks in the offices can stay at their desks or move (the equipment) desk to desk.”
Aiken High School began using the new system on Tuesday. Principal Garen Cofer said he was concerned that the parents who arrived at the entrance would consider it inconvenient.
“Yet the number of compliments we got for having that system was incredible,” Cofer said. “They said it was great, and we're pleased when the community sees that safety is first and foremost for us.”
He and Caver readily acknowledged that Aiken High is spread out and has many other accessible doors. The North campus actually was the separate North Aiken Elementary School before a new school opened in 1999.
“If funds become available, we would like to do something with those buildings,” Cofer said. “But we have to start somewhere.”
Only a small number of students use the front entrance at Aiken High. The rest enter at other locations, but all have teachers or staff members on duty, Cofer said.
The School District is providing the funding through its facilities/maintenance account, Caver said. The main entrances are the first priorities for now.
The newest schools in the District – Mossy Creek Elementary School in North Augusta and Byrd Elementary School in Graniteville – were designed with safety in mind.
The other schools “have their own individual challenges,” he said. “We look at it in that regard, and we'll be looking at other things down the road – anything we can do to make our school campuses more secure.”
South Aiken High School started using the buzzer/camera equipment when school started last month, said Principal Bryan Skipper. The facility had created some other safety systems previously at the main entrance.
Large numbers of students enter the main entrance at the beginning and end of school. The doors are locked at other times, Skipper said. The only entry at all is the far left door, and visitors must go through the front office. The other doors go to a second set of doors inside as an additional security aspect.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.