Officials collaborate on how to keep students safer

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SALYERSVILLE – School officials, local law enforcement and representatives from city and county government came together on Tuesday night to discuss their concerns about school safety and collaborate on solutions to keep Magoffin County children out of harm’s way. 

With recent events of school shootings, threats and security breaches being reported across the nation, including inappropriate comments made by students in Magoffin, school officials decided to bring the community’s decision-makers together to help find solutions.

Magoffin County Schools Superintendent Scott Helton told the Independent they had a really productive meeting, with several safety measures to be implemented in the upcoming weeks.

Helton said the school system is in the process of installing buzzer systems at every school, requiring visitors to push a button at the door, talk with office personnel (while being videoed and visible on the monitor inside the office), before the door will unlock and allow them entry to the office. 

Currently, the system is installed at the Salyersville Grade School, and Helton said they hope to have it implemented at the other schools in the district within the next couple of weeks.

“We’re asking all parents to be patient with us as all of these changes will require time,” Helton said. “You’ll have to be buzzed in, verbally talk back and forth with someone in the office before gaining entry into the office. I know this will require more time for parents, but I think it’s well worth it to keep our children safe.”

In addition to the buzzer systems, Helton also told the Independent that they are in the process of making photo identification name badges for all employees of the school system. Once implemented, all staff will be required to wear the badges at all times while working.

Surveillance video cameras are already installed at all schools, and he said they are actively monitoring all exit doors to make sure they are staying locked.

As a product of the March 6 meeting, the Magoffin County Sheriff Department and Salyersville Police Department are going to do an assessment of the schools and highlight areas of concern for the district. Helton is turning over all emergency procedures to the sheriff department and city police, as well as to 911.

They are currently working with the Salyersville Police Department and Magoffin County Sheriff Department to set up a schedule for officers to be in the buildings everyday intermittently, up to a couple hours a day.

He said they also have a district psychologist, counselors at each school, as well as the ability to utilize Mountain Comprehensive Care for services regarding counseling and mental health.

“If your kids tell you something or if you hear something, please call us,” Helton said. “Call the school, the district office or report it to police. Go to our district webpage and send us a tip. We have several assets we can utilize, but first we have to know when there is a problem.”

As far as criminal-level threats from students, Helton said they can and have utilized the juvenile justice system. 

“We strive to keep our schools safe every day, but in today’s time I can’t guarantee anything,” Helton said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve what we do and we’re doing what we can to make sure our kids are safe. We’re continuing to change with the times and we’re always open to suggestions.”

Helton said that the school system and board members thank everyone that attended the meeting, stating that they are very pleased with the cooperation they received. Those in attendance included: the superintendent and director of pupil personnel, most of the school board members, all school principals, representatives of the sheriff department and city police, the mayor, some city council members, a fiscal court member, and the district judge.