January 8, 2013 10:38:03 AM
It has been almost a month since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings and the ripple effect is evident in schools across the country.
In its first response after the shooting, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association called for armed officers at every school and some schools seem inclined to follow that advice. In New Jersey, two school districts have put armed guards at the entrances of its schools. In Arizona, a sheriff is calling for his volunteer "posse'' to work at schools on a voluntary basis.
While most school districts across the nation haven't gone that far, school officials everywhere have taken a close look at how to make their schools more secure as students return to class after the holiday break.
For the Columbus Municipal School District, that means upgrading its technology.
Michael Jackson, public relations director for CMSD, said an intercom system was installed at each city school, requiring all visitors to ring the front office before gaining entry.
Jackson said system was installed over the Christmas break. After classes begin each day, all outside doors will be locked. If a visitor wishes to come inside the school, they must first contact the front office through the two way intercom. Only then will they be allowed inside.
Jackson said the district decided to install the intercom system after the Newtown shooting.
"It is an extra precaution to ensure the student's safety," he said.
In addition to the new intercom system, the district has three school resource officers who rotate through the nine schools.
The officers are trained and certified through the Columbus Police Department and carry firearms.
Chief Selvain McQueen said his department will continue to have a strong presence in the school.
"The Columbus Police Department plans to continue the current working relationship it has with the Columbus Municipal Public School System," McQueen said. "We share Intel, work together and have a wonderful working relationship to keep our students safe."
The Lowndes County School District also has armed officers at each campus. Three deputies with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department are stationed at the New Hope campus, the Caledonia campus and the West Lowndes Campus with one deputy per campus.
In addition, the county schools also have contracted security officers with American Citadel to patrol the halls.
At Immanuel Christian School, the school's principal Dr. Bob Williford, said while they do not have plans to hire armed guards, they did make changes to the security system they had in place.
"We making some adjustments and reviewing security plans," Williford said. "We're fortunate in that we have a security camera system that can monitor all areas of the school. We can view it from a computer or a cell phone."
Williford said that since the Newtown shooting awareness has been heightened at the school and, like any school, his top priority is to keep his students safe.
"We're mindful of everything that goes on with our students," he said. "We certainly don't think because we're a Christan school, it can't happen here."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
2. Pioneers in their field: Local women discuss their challenge-laden paths to success COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Pride, police prepared for parade STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY