School Safety: Polk County Schools prepare for the school year

Published 11:31 am Friday, August 19, 2022

POLK COUNTY––With the Polk County school year beginning on Monday, August 29, faculty, staff, and authorities are taking precautions to make sure students and families are safe.

Superintendent of Polk County Schools, Aaron Greene, recently shared with the Bulletin his insight regarding the steps taken to ensure student safety.

Last April, Polk County Early College experienced an online threat toward the school, involving a potential violent act that was to take place the following Monday. 

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Superintendent Greene immediately notified parents of the investigation, and law enforcement was on scene at Polk County Early College and Polk County High School “out of an abundance of caution,” Greene stated.

He says, “When talking about school safety, I like to hit on three areas.”

Greene discusses the physical school building and safety audits of the campuses. The audits, which are conducted partly by local law enforcement, help identify ways to improve school sites.

“We have an ongoing plan to address physical improvements like school entrances and doors, electronic locks, surveillance, fencing, etc.” He says progress on these plans has been made, and they are working on completing this work soon.

Preparation and response is the second area that Greene focuses on when considering students’ safety. He says that Polk County schools have an outstanding relationship with Polk County Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement and emergency services agencies. He says they conduct regular safety meetings with these entities.

“As required by law, we discuss ongoing safety efforts, updates, and concerns,” he says, adding, “We have specific and thorough responses for everything from a chemical spill on the interstate to an active shooter on campus. These plans are shared with law enforcement and emergency service agencies, and they can access the detailed site information and prescribed responses digitally at any time.”

Greene shares that Polk County schools conduct mock exercises and annual drills that help prepare and inform students, faculty, and staff on how to respond in emergency situations. SROs (School Resource Officers) also receive special training, he says, and help with deterrence and response.

Greene adds his third point of discussion: Relationships and intervention.

“Our local funding allows us to employ extra counseling and intervention staff, and the relationships we have with other agencies afford us quick access to student and staff intervention and support programs,” he says. There are teams designed for threat assessment, crisis response, and recovery.

There are also numerous tip lines/numbers to call if an anonymous tip needs to be reported. These numbers can be found at www.polkschools.org.

In the occurrence of a dangerous situation, Superintendent Greene says that he and the schools have outlined specific responses to such events. There is at least one SRO assigned to each campus, present during school hours every day, unless they are temporarily needed on another site or are called away for training purposes. 

“Local police departments like Columbus, Tryon, and Saluda are very good about visiting and driving through campuses in their jurisdiction wherever they can,” Greene states.