LUMBERTON — School administrators assured the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County on Tuesday that students are safe when they attend school.
Assistant Schools Superintendent Stephen Gaskins briefly updated the school board on security measures that are in place at the district’s schools. Security in Robeson County, like schools throughout the country, is being reviewed and enhanced where possible following last month’s shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 elementary school children and several adults.
“Each school every year submits a crisis plan,” Gaskins said. “… In the last month these plans have been revisited.”
Gaskins said that all the plans include what to do if it becomes necessary for there to be a lockout, lockdown or evacuation.
According to the assistant superintendent, the schools have been working closely with the county Sheriff’s Office and local police to ensure safety at all schools.
“SWAT teams from the Sheriff’s Department are visiting all of the schools,” he said. “They are not just going through the schools. They are walking around with each principal and examining the buildings.”
Gaskins said that on Jan. 22 the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office will hold a crisis intervention work session for principals and assistant principals.
Superintendent Johnny Hunt said that safety is a priority at all schools and all means of security are being reviewed and enhancements made when necessary. He said that he would like to have resource officers at all of the schools, but because of a lack of money, they can be employed only at the middle and high schools.
According to Hunt, state and federal Safe School Funding no longer exists. This money, he said, was used by the school system to pay for resource officers and purchase security cameras and other safety equipmen.
“Like everything, it costs money,” Hunt said. “We take the money we have and do the best we can.”
In other business, the board heard a presentation about the district’s collaboration with the Exploration Station in Lumberton in opening a new school room exhibit. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for the end of the month.
Exploration Station, which offers a number of educational exhibits for young children, opened in 2000. According to Brooke Hardee, the station’s executive director, Exploration Station last year was the site of more than 50 school field trips and since 2011 has held more than 180 birthday parties. The 14 exhibits, she said, include a grocery store, play house, pirate ship and hospital.
The addition will include a reading room, arts center and an “around the world” center.
“Children can learn a lot from the center,” Hunt said. “This is just another way to build an educational foundation for our students.”
In other action:
n Announced the hiring of two head football coaches. Joe Salas, a former head coach at West Bladen and South Johnston high schools, will replace Mike Brill at Lumberton High School, and Randy Ragland, former head coach at West Johnston High School, will replace James Atkinson at Fairmont High School.
n The School Board received a brief update on “End of Course” testing taking place this week and next.
This week, students in grades ninth through 12th are taking tests online in English and honors biology. Next week the students will take exams in regular biology and core mathematics using the traditional paper and pencil, school officials said.
All testing beginning in 2014 will be required by the state to be done online.
n Received recognition from the North Carolina School Boards Association for each board member having successfully completed 12 hours of training.
n Recognized Darlene Hammond, a 10-year pre-K teacher assistant at Deep Branch Elementary School, as the district’s Classified Employee of the Month; Lakeshia Revels, a fifth-grade science teacher at Deep Branch Elementary School for five years, as the district’s Certified Employee of the Month; and Gwen Daniels, a bus driver for Long Branch Elementary School, as the district’s Bus Driver of the Month.