The faculty and staff at Highlands School spent the weeks leading up to the new school year putting the finishing touches on everything to get Highlands School just right for students. In addition to a new few faces around campus, students started this school year off with renovations to the school’s security.
As part of a districtwide measure to improve the safety and security of Macon County Schools – something prompted by mass school shootings last year such as the tragedy which occurred in Parkland, Fla., Highlands School has completed some upgrades.
While students began the first day of school with a new floor in the cafeteria, and window coverings for the windows on classroom doors, less noticeable changes come in the form of new front doors that will eventually be locked all day and only allow entry via camera access.
According to Principal Brian Jetter, most exterior doors are also now locked all day which limits access to the building during the school day. “Hopefully, these improvements, when finished, will make our school a safer and more enjoyable place to be,” said Jetter.
Like every other school in Macon County, Highlands School is also staffed with a full-time School Resource Officer. Master Officer Tim Broughton is assigned to Highlands School and is a joint partnership between Highlands Police Department and Macon County Board of Commissioners. Master Officer Tim Broughton is employed by the Highlands Police Department, but Macon County Commissioners allocate $50,000 a year for the officer’s salary and benefits.
Master Officer Broughton started the new school year with a new patrol vehicle. The new Camaro dawns the DARE logo and will be bolster community engagement.
Macon County Commissioners made school security a priority in this year’s county budget by earmarking specific funding for school security upgrades across the district. Macon County is following a national trend to look at areas on school campuses to ensure students are safer during the school day.
“New front doors with a swipe card/ camera entry system are currently being installed,” said Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “The security cameras will allow school administrators and law enforcement officials to monitor the campus for potential dangers and help to deter threats against our students and staff.”
In total, Highlands School has 36 security cameras and phones in each classroom.
Discussions are ongoing about installing fences between the middle school and main building, similar to those at Franklin High School, to minimize accessibility to entryways on the campus from the soccer field and middle school building.
Jetter said he likes the idea of the school perimeter being more secure so people can’t walk into the center of campus.
By Brittney Lofthouse