Chesapeake rolls out new safety features ahead of new school year


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – The poster to be placed inside every classroom across the district reads: CHESAPEAKE PUBLIC SCHOOLS LOCKDOWN LEVELS.

It’s part of the effort to make school buildings more secure and making important information visible for all students and staff.

The poster includes what to do and where to go in the event of a threat in the community, near a school building or inside a school.

After the shooting in Parkland, Fla., the city council ponied up $2 million for security upgrades. A presentation at a recent school board meeting shows the district plans to spend nearly $8 million on upgrades. 

Over the summer, the district installed new buzzer systems at all schools that require visitors to be seen and heard before entering the building.

“Otherwise, if someone had bad intentions they could walk right in [the] front door and they could have carte blanche on whatever they wanted to do at that point,” said Jeff Johnson, principal. 

Johnson says once visitors get inside, they must finish the check-in process with a staff member by showing their identification. The “Raptor” system allows each school to screen visitors to see if they are a registered sex offender.

Dr. Jared Cotton, who was hired in July as superintendent, says students are “much more concerned about safety.”

Cotton says creating a culture of openness in which students feel comfortable speaking up when they don’t feel safe is just as important as physical upgrades.

“Once you build that culture and you set that expectation, nine out of 10 students are the ones who tell us because they want to be safe,” said Dr. Cotton. “This is their school. This is their community.”

Chesapeake Public Schools currently has school resource officers at all high school buildings. District officials say the city has approved additional funding to put a full-time resource officer at each of the 10 middle schools, but a start date for those new positions has not been determined.

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