News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- A couple dozen officers march into North Augusta schools Thursday.
You could say they're there to learn -- the subject is school safety.
"Well, in the events of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, the North Augusta Department of Public Safety felt that it was pertinent for our officers to actually get out and actually do a tour of the schools and actually go over plans with the school administration in case of such an unlikely event here in the City of North Augusta," said Sgt. Maurice Ransom with the North Augusta Department of Public Safety SWAT team.
They're taking plenty of notes and asking tough questions. The only hand-outs they're getting are up-to-date floorplans of the schools. They'll have to be prepared if tragedy ever strikes here at home.
School by school, the men walked through gyms, lunchrooms and classrooms to learn the specifics of each.
"A lot of the schools are laid out quite differently, and this was a great opportunity for law enforcement officers to actually walk the halls and actually see the different classrooms and how the actual layout and setups are as compared to blueprints," Ransom said.
They even explored the roof of Paul Knox Middle School.
Principal John Murphy was their guide.
"Well, I think our plan is very solid. There are a couple things we could tweak to improve our safety procedures," Murphy said.
They didn't hesitate in pointing those things out. Specifically, they asked the school to use a card system in lockdown situations.
"Sometimes it helps to have a different set of eyes to look at what you're doing," Murphy said.
At the end of this school day, there was no pop quiz. There was simply a hope that the skills they continuously craft will never be needed.
The officers will be reporting their findings to Deputy Superintendent David Caver of the Aiken County Public School District as soon as possible. By the way, Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt also plans to meet with Caver and Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt. They want to improve the policy for all of Aiken County any way they can.
As for Richmond County Schools, Capt. Ted Brown at BOE Public Safety says the increased level of security that was put into place after the shooting in Newtown remains in effect. Brown says that while the school does not have sufficient officers to station one at every school, the officers are rotating visits among the campuses.The captain would not discuss how long the increased security will remain in effect, but it will continue for the foreseeable future.