MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Schools have been working over the summer to improve safety and security for students and staff, as well as general visitors, to the schools.
For example, the new school year will bring changes to the traffic flow at Mount Vernon High School and Middle School. The new pattern will have an outer loop for buses, which will still park along the curb beside the schools. Other vehicles will be directed from Yellow Jacket Drive through the parking lot in a newly designated “inner loop.” The loop will continue through the middle school lot and merge back onto Yellow Jacket Drive. Current parking lot access points across from the high school and near the middle school library will be blocked off to traffic.
“The goal is to create a safer environment,” said Todd Allen, transportation and maintenance supervisor. “We used to have buses parked along the curb, with cars coming in beside the buses and students crossing to and from the parking lot. That made it like a blind corner and we wanted to make it safer for everyone.”
Additional security measures have been implemented inside the high school as well. Changes to the high school office area have been made to improve safety, security and efficiency. Lockers along the main entrance wall have been moved and a “welcome window” for the receptionist was installed. Visitors entering the building will stop at the window before proceeding through the school. Inside the office, the offices of the principal and assistant principal were moved, walls taken out and furniture rearranged.
“We never thought about someone coming in and having ill-intent toward the students,” Allen said. “We’re a small town; everybody knows each other. I think it’s just prudent for us to do some planning to try to protect our students, to try to limit access to them. We’re not trying to promote an attitude that we should be afraid, but we’re trying to be safe.”
“There have been a lot of societal changes since this building was built in 1969,” added Assistant Principal Sam Shuman. “With all of the different things that have happened, we realized our security needs were greater than our function was here. We put that window in so we are able to see people as they come in. We also moved our attendance office here. As you come in the main entrance now, parents will be able to pick up their kids without coming through the hallways. This will give us the opportunity to greet parents and the public as they come into our building. Security-wise, you’ve got more eyes by moving the secretaries out into this open office space. Ultimately we would like to have this the only entrance open during the day.”
Allen said the district has made significant camera upgrades at the high school and the middle school in recent years, and this year at all of the elementary schools.
“We have a really, really functional internal camera system at the high school now,” said Shuman. “With 38 cameras, it’s a safer place.”