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January 3, 2013

Safety reviews planned for schools, courthouse

As classes resumed from the holiday break this week, school safety remained on the minds of many, including local officials, following a deadly school shooting in Newton, Conn., that killed 26 people at an elementary school last month.

On Wednesday,Cullman County School Superintendent Billy Coleman, along with Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of Cullman City Schools, are expected to meet with principals from each of the schools, along with local leaders and law enforcement officials from the Sheriff’s office and Cullman Police Department to review current safety measures that are in place.

“We’re doing our very best right now to make sure that our children are safe in this county,” Chief Deputy Sheriff Max Bartlett said during the latest county commission meeting. “It’s an ongoing thing. We can always improve, and that’s what our goal is, to make it as best as possible.”

Coleman said the meeting would serve more as “a brainstorming session” than anything.

“We have very good safety plans in place, but you always need to evaluate them to see where you may have needs that need to be pursued,” he said.

From his system’s prospective, Coleman said each school is different when it comes to safety plans.

“Students all have to go outside to change classes, or to go to the Ag shop, or the field house,” Coleman said. “So every campus plan is different, even though there is a similarity in all of them. Because of that, I think we’ll be able to identify common and unique things that need to be discussed, and from that then go down a path of how we would do it.”

The meeting will also serve as an opportunity for officials to review security measures at the Cullman County Courthouse.

“We want to ensure the people of Cullman County that we’re in the process of re-evaluating the schools and the courthouse about the security measures in place,”Bartlett said. “We’re going to sit down and see if there is anything we can improve on to make it a safer place.”

According to Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, currently there is only one entrance to the courthouse, and those entering must go through a metal detector. County employees may enter through side doors, but must use their ID badge to get in. It’s a system Walker is comfortable with, and credits the Sheriff’s office for helping keep the courthouse a safe environment.

“I feel safe the way it is,” Walker said. “I think it reflects back on the judges and our court systems. That’s why our security here is the way it is. As long as we’re in this building, we’ll have it for all our departments here in the courthouse. We want to make sure the citizens of Cullman County are safe.”

Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at agraves@cullmantimes.com

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