Message from Superintendent Richard Autry:
"Good afternoon parents, this is Richard Autry, superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools. By now I am sure you have heard about the unthinkable tragedy that took place last Friday in Connecticut.
While our thoughts and prayers are with the children, families, school personnel of Sandy Hook Elementary and the entire community of Newtown, we also must assess our current situation to ensure all students and staff are as safe as possible while at school.
Today and tomorrow we added some extra security measures in light of the tragedy to ensure a smooth and safe transition into the holiday season.
Some of these measures include:
· In collaboration with both the city and county, law enforcement will have a presence at all elementary schools to add reassurance to the school communities.
· Principals are reviewing safety protocols with staff. Please be aware that each school is required to conduct regular safety drills and has current emergency preparedness plans,
· And the Superintendent’s cabinet members will join school administrators during arrival and dismissal for additional administrative presence and support.
Our Support services department has shared with principals and counselors information, resources and guidance on how to address the feelings, questions and emotional needs of students, parents and staff. If you need help talking with your child, please call your school for some of these resources. Upon returning from the holiday break, we will have ongoing meetings with law enforcement and state security personnel to review our security measures and provide recommendations for improvement in our buildings and on school grounds.
Our thoughts and prayers are for you to have a safe and happy holiday season."
Patrol cars and law enforcement made an effort to be visible at all Rockdale County Public Schools Monday as students returned in the first day after Friday's tragic school shooting in Connecticut.
RCPS spokesperson Cindy Ball said in an email Monday, "While our thoughts and prayers are with the children, families, school personnel and entire community of Newtown, Connecticut, we are reminded that the safety and well-being of our own students and staff must always remain our top priority. We expect normal operations for the next two days until the holiday break; however, we have taken a few extra steps to give our students, parents and staff some peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to ensure a safe learning environment."
She said that RCPS Superintendent Richard Autry, Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson and Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington had been in communication over the weekend. "There will be law enforcement presence at all elementary schools to add reassurance to the school communities," said Ball.
Principals also reviewed safety protocols with staff on Monday, said Ball. "Please note that each school holds regular safety drills and has an emergency preparedness plan."
Principals and school counselors received information, resources and guidance on how to address the feelings, questions and emotional needs of students, parents and staff, said Ball.
Pine Street Elementary Principal Kim Viers said on Monday only a few Pine Street students expressed awareness of the event and many seemed to have been shielded from hearing the details.
Edwards Middle School Principal Fred Middleton said EMS students were quieter and more well-behaved than they normally would be two days before the winter holiday. Several teachers stopped by his office to talk and many parents gave their children an extra hug as they dropped them off Monday morning.
School Resource Officers
There are currently full time School Resource Officers in each of the three high schools and four middle schools in RCPS.
The Sheriff's Office provides the SROs for Heritage High, Salem High, the four middle schools, Alpha Academy, Open Campus and Rockdale Career Academy. RCPS reimburses the Sheriff's Office for the four middle school SROs and the Sheriff's Office bears the cost of the high school and non-traditional school SROs.
Conyers Police Department provides the SRO for Rockdale County High School and covers the cost.
The cost of an average patrol deputy is about $93,000 a year, including salary, benefits, vehicle and full equipment, said Sheriff Wigington.
There are 11 elementary schools in RCPS. Two are in the city limits, Pine Street and CJ Hicks, and nine are in the county jurisdicition.
The nine elementary schools in the county currently have deputies assigned to them as part of their patrol responsibilities, but just not full time, said Wigington. "They have other duties as well."
Sheriff Wigington said in his discussions with Autry, there was a request for more deputy presence until students and staff are released for the winter holiday on Tuesday.
Superintendent Richard Autry said in a message sent to parents on Monday, "Upon returning from the holiday break, we will have ongoing meetings with law enforcement and state security personnel to review our security measures and provide recommendations for improvement in our buildings and on school grounds."