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Heightened Police Presence A New Normal At Area Schools

Increased police presence at local schools will become part of everyday operations in wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy.

Teacher Talks Down Student With Gun – Huffington Post, Jan. 10

Lockdown at Elementary and Middle School Draws Ire from Parents - Snellville Patch, Jan. 9.

Despite the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre occurring a month ago, area school districts aren't quite ready to return to a sense of normalcy.

School districts continue to implement forms of heightened security in the tragedy's aftermath.

Fulton County Schools plan to continue its enhanced secuirty presence, said spokesperson Susan Hale.

"Elementary schools will be routinely visited and patrolled throughout the day by the school resource officers of their neighboring middle and high schools," she added. "We’re also asking local jurisdictions to continue with their patrols."

Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa Ed.D. also noted the district has a "well-qualified" school police force of 65 officers "that are specially trained to work with students and serve their unique needs."

"Each school also has a regularly practiced safety plan, which includes locking exterior doors and requiring visitors to sign in upon arrival and exit," he wrote. "In addition, comprehensive video surveillance systems help keep students and staff safe, inside the school and out, and the recently-passed SPLOST sales tax is providing new technology to allow instant background checks of all volunteers."

Both Bartow County Schools and Cartersville City schools continued with its increased police presence on their campuses when their second semester got underway earlier this week. 

Cartersville Police Capt. Mark Camp said officers will continue patrolling city schools and surrounding areas for the remainder of the school year.

Also, three school resource officers — two at Cartersville Middle School that also handle incidents at the primary and elementary school and one at Cartersville High School — will also continue to cover Cartersville's four schools. 

Bartow County Schools has several school resource officers to cover its 21 campuses, and Sheriff Clark Millsap said his deputies are working with them to take it a step further.

Millsap added his deputies will also join school officers to walk around the school campuses, eat lunch in the school cafeteria and even engage students in conversations.

The Cherokee County School District and its School Police Department has partnered with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office and local police departments to also roll out heightened police visibility.

Along with their general responsibilities of patrols and responding to emergency calls, sheriff deputies will also station themselves in school parking lots, park along roadways near the schools and will also walk on the properties of schools in their assigned zones.  

This initiative will continue the remainder of the second semester.

"This strategy is to assist the Cherokee County School District and its School Police Department in providing an additional security presence in and around its campuses," Cherokee Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Lt. Jay Baker said in a statement

Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo also formed an Ad-Hoc Safety and Security Committee, which is staffed by district officials, high school principals, representatives of local law enforcement agencies and members of the community. 

That committee will meet throughout the year to evaluate current and emerging safety initiatives and determine the "programmatic, operational and fiscal impact" of the district's safety measures.

Cherokee Schools Spokesperson Barbara Jacoby said the district has been given high marks by the community for its decision to increase officer presence. 

"We’ve received very positive feedback from the entire community about the increased law enforcement presence, and we greatly appreciated our strong relationship with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office and municipal police departments," she said.

Forsyth County Schools will also follow the tradition of increased presence. District Superintendent Buster Evans last month sent a letter home to parents announcing the formation of a Forsyth County Schools Safety Committee. 

Similar to Cherokee's ad hoc committee, the Forsyth committee would be made up of district staff, members of local law enforcement agencies and first responders. The committee will meet throughout the year to work on a plan for school safety.

Forsyth Schools will also perform safety audits and implement safety needs into its facilities plan that will be conducted this year, "to study renovations, modifications and technology support that support safe learning environments."

Forsyth's new sheriff also wants to make safety a top priority.

"I've already spoken with the school board and we'll be taking some immediate action to reassure the public that we're safe guarding the schools," Sheriff Duane Piper said. 

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