GREENSBORO, N.C. — As the school year kicks off, Guilford County is making safety one of the district's top priorities. That means they are also thinking about safety with every decision on how to spend about $2 billion approved by voters for upgrading school buildings.
In this month's Build Smart 2Gether, district leaders show you some of the changes you can expect to keep students and staff safe.
It's not hard to detect how Guilford County School's latest safety addition is already making an impact. Police say body scanners stopped a student from bringing guns into Western Guilford on the first day of school.
"One less gun in the school is one less opportunity for mass violence. So that's a success," said Mike Richey, Assistant Superintendent of School Safety and Emergency Management.
Beyond the scanners, there's the next layer of safety in the new buildings - a wall blocking people from getting in the building.
"One of the things that we've looked at that's standard across communities in infrastructure for about 10 to 12 years is a secure vestibule. That's an area when you enter the school that the visitor has to stop and can go no further until let in by staff," Richey said.
Each new school's vestibule will come with some bulletproof glass, but the district doesn't want to say how much or where for security reasons. Plus, there will be upgraded cameras.
"So we have cameras that might be 10 years old. Well, a camera system is completely different 10 years ago than it is today. Your iPhone has 10 more megapixels than it did 15 years ago, so we want our cameras to have that," Richey said.
There will also be key card entries for staff and students. Plus...
"Not everything that we do for safety and security of our children is obvious and upfront for everyone to notice," Richey said.
Like a new fire panel that costs $125,000 for each school.
"So every fire detector, every smoke detector, and the alarm system, which keeps our kids safe, notifies them and makes quick notice to 911," Richey said. "One of the other things that we've put in with some of this money is the ability for radio communication to be stronger for first responders. And it all ties in right here."
And building ties between students, staff and the community is also a key priority with the new designs. For example, the architect of the future Visual and Performing Arts School points to steps that will be built outside.
"The community porch was something that was really an early design evolution, thinking of ways parents come to pick up their kids at the end of the day. They need a place to really gather and spend time with one another and spend time talking about what's happening in their community. So that community porch was really an anchor for those conversations," said Jason Lembke with DLR Group.
And inside the schools, there will be spaces where walls can be pushed back so people can work together.
"The strongest piece of any safety measure we have in schools is a relationship between a trusted adult and the child," Richey said.
Which brings us back to those scanners at the front door. They are run by staff members doing their own scanning of each kid's behavior.
"So safety starts with one very important word at the school: hello. That's how they're judging that child and making sure the child has everything they need. They can tell if a child is upset, so they can get the child help. And that has so many more implications than just safety," Richey said.
Again, these upgrades are from the bond money. That means you'll see the biggest impacts at the new schools being built, but administrators hope to eventually improve all schools in the district - going back to that goal of making every school safer every day.