In the wake of the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Conn., many schools are boning up on security, but for Blytheville Public Schools, safety has always been a top priority, according to director of safety and security Ron Self.
The district employs a number of security measures in each of its campuses, including indoor/outdoor cameras, locked entrances that require visitors to check in before entering the school and a member of the Blytheville Police Department as a dedicated officer for the district. But even with these in place, Self said one of the most important safety measures is regular lockdown drills.
Each school participates in state-mandated fire and tornado drills. In addition, the district performs earthquake drills and six lockdown drills, including one unannounced lockdown drill each year that allows Self to evaluate each campuses emergency readiness.
"I'm looking for a real faction from the staff and students," Self said.
Self has been conducting these unannounced drills throughout the month of January, wrapping up with a visit to the Kindergarten Center on Thursday, and said he's pleased with each school's performance.
"There have been minor things that we need to work on, but for the most part, I can tell that they're doing what they're supposed to do throughout the rest of the year," said Self. "There's always something to work on, but they've been doing good."
The school's administrators are always looking at ways to keep Blytheville Schools as safe as possible, according to Self, but each safety feature added also adds financial expense -- making the lockdown drills a very important and inexpensive aspect of safety.
Self said as much as they try, there's no way to make a school 100 percent secure, but that doesn't keep them from trying.
"I always tell our teachers that prisons are made to keep people in, but prisoners escape on a daily basis; so there's no way to make a school that can keep everyone out. What we're doing here, and what these lockdowns are designed to do, is to put as many obstacles as possible between you and the threat so that help can arrive," Self said. "If we're not doing all we can to try to keep our students safe, then we just aren't doing our job."
For more information on the schools' lockdown procedures, as well as other safety measures, visit the Safety and Security homepage found under the "Departments" tab at www.blythevilleschools.com