Security beefed up at Western Tidewater schools

Published 10:42 am Monday, December 17, 2012

FRANKLIN—The Southampton County Sheriff’s Office this morning beefed up its presence at county schools by patrolling around Meherrin, Capron, Nottoway and Riverdale elementary schools.

In Franklin Public Schools, administrators spent Sunday evening reviewing the district’s crisis plan.

“We will do the same with teachers today,” said Franklin Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle. “We just want people to have a third eye on things, to be more mindful.”

Caution is being taken after Friday’s massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Gunman Adam Lanza, 20, took his own life after the rampage that started earlier in the morning when he killed his mother.

The sheriff’s office received a request from Southampton County Public Schools for extra security, said Major Gene Drewery. The office already has an officer assigned to the middle and high schools on a daily basis.

At the elementary schools, “we will be showing a presence with random patrols,” Drewery said. “We expect to continue until they go on Christmas break.”

Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish notified the sheriff’s office after listening to the media over the weekend and talking to colleagues.

“I’m just feeling the sense of anxiety with parents and anticipated what the students may feel as well,” Parrish said. “We just want to take precautions the next couple of days. When something like this happens, it kind of heightens all of our awareness.”

Students were greeted by officers on Monday morning, and central office administrators were spread out among the schools.

Every school in the district has cameras in place. Visitors must look into a camera before a school employee buzzes them in.

As for Franklin schools, J.P. King Middle and S.P. Morton Elementary schools have buzz-in security systems in place. A similar system is being installed at Franklin High School, Belle said.

Franklin does not have an officer in the schools on a daily basis.

“I’m sure some teachers have a little anxiety,” Belle said Monday. “We just wanted to do a refresher on lockdowns for intruders.”

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office on Friday increased patrols around the county and its schools, said Kenita Bowers, coordinator for community affairs and media relations with the school district.

“We were very pleased to hear that,” Bowers said. “They were on top of it and being proactive in light of what happened.”

Parents were notified of the strengthened security through e-mails and phone messages.

On Monday morning, students arrived to find an officer outside every school.

“I’ve gotten some phone calls from parents who had questions when they saw a police officer at the school,” Bowers said, noting parents then explained to their children why police were around.

Deputies will patrol during the day and be at each school when children leave for the day.