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Students, faculty raise safety concerns at Waynesboro High

Editor’s note: In recent months, there have been several significant events taking place involving Waynesboro High School. To get an inside perspective on how people at the school feel about these situations, the News Virginian staff worked with the student reporters at the high school’s Giantword.com operation. This is one of several stories we’ll run this week, high lighting some of the feelings about issues like safety and school construction.

WAYNESBORO- With recent school shootings happening nationwide, the topic of school safety is on the mind of students, staff, and administration. On Nov. 25, some Waynesboro High students stayed home from class, after a rumor was spread about a classmate planning to bring a gun to school. It raised the question about if students and  staff are safe on campus. In a survey done by the student journalism class, 221 Waynesboro High students were polled. Out of that number, 108 said they feel safe, 93 said they don’t feel safe and 10 were undecided.

Keith Smit, band teacher at WHS, said that a problem he’s noticed is kids walk off in random directions going wherever and coming back whenever, though he’s not not sure how that problem can be fixed. Smith also mentioned that students are in danger when fights happen because the teachers and faculty are outnumbered by students.

“The band room is a little different (from the usual emergency protocol) because if there was an emergency like a shooter in the school and we knew the shooter was close by, we ave 2 exits (that go directly outside),” Smith said. “We’ll get out and get safe, which goes and doesn’t go with protocol because you’re suppose to have everyone together. If students have the opportunity to get away from the building and be safe somewhere away from a dangerous situation, then that’s what I would do.”

Other teachers don’t believe that protocol is helpful in these type of situations.

“If we ever had a real emergency any protocol in place wouldn’t actually be followed,” said Christopher Mattern, a math teacher at WHS.

Mattern added that safety has improved at the school over the last few years, including the addition of a security camera system and the numbering of entrance/exits of the building. However according to Mattern, there are some flaws with the security cameras because they don’t have audio, they’re not in classrooms, and they’re not recording all the time. Hem said that is the situation isn’t in the frame of the camera, then it’s not going to help. The cameras aren’t all around the school which is another concern.

Student and staff awareness is another issue mentioned by several WHS students and teachers.

“We just need to pay a bit more attention,” said Olivia Piper, a WHS junior. “I feel like not everyone pays as much attention to the environment around them.”

Math teacher Bill Krzastek said that the best way to stay safe for students is to let faculty, administration, or resource officer know when they believe a problem exists. Smith agreed that everyone needs to be more aware because kids find ways to get in trouble.

An additional concern that many teachers and students have about the school is the unlocked doors and the multiple entrances into the building.

“I don’t always feel safe at the school because some doors are never locked and kids just walk in and out of the school as they please,” said Mackenzie Coburn, WHS freshman. “Anyone can get in.” She also mentioned having an ID card for teachers and students as the way to get into the building and officers stationed at entrances would make her feel safer. Junior Brandon James said he’d feel safer with more than one officer at the school because just one officer can’t be everywhere at the same time.

Last year, the district installed a new multi-camera system at both the high school and middle school, one that monitors all entrances and exits at the facilities. The school district was able to afford that upgrade due to a state grant. That system has already paid off, leading to an arrest of someone who attempted to break into the high school after hours earlier this year. Teachey hopes at some point to enhance that system. There are 27 doors leading into the school and he would like to have a system that lets Waynesboro High officials know when there’s an issue.

“I want an alarm system that will alert to a door being opened that’s not supposed to be opened,” Teachey said. He added that in a perfect world, he’d like to require a student or staff IS to get access to the building, but there’s not enough money to cover that expense.

Every summer, Teachey said, administration and faculty work to make things safer around the building. He added that people from central office come over to the school and cal a code red to see how faculty reacts.

At the end of the day, safety is on everyone’s mind. Teachey’s first priority is keeping “his kids” safe.

“When people talk to me about what my job is and my SOL scores and education kids, none of that matters if they don’t feel safe,” said Teachey. While you don’t see it written very often, my number one job is making this place safe first. Then I work on the other stuff.”

 

By Emily Kratzer, Classroom Manager of giantword.com

As featured in The News Virginian

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