New panel to look at school security in Va. Beach


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A panel being convened in Virginia Beach will be taking a look at current security practices of Virginia Beach City Public Schools. 

Dr. Aaron Spence, Virginia Beach’s superintendent, announced the formation of a new Blue Ribbon Panel on school safety and security late Tuesday morning. Spence said the panel is going to include members from Naval Air Station Oceana, the Virginia Beach Police Department, the school district and the city.

The district is partnering with the agencies to evaluate current security measures, give feedback and see what can be done better. 

“To be clear, our schools are safe. We have dedicated staff members in this division who ensure that our schools are secure and welcoming places for our students and families each and every day,” Spence said at the announcement.

Spence said the panel was created to assure parents that the district is doing everything they can to keep students safe by evaluating current plans and resources to find out what works best, and gaps that might be in security protocol.

The panel’s creation comes after recent school safety concerns after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a number of threats made against different schools in Virginia Beach.

“As our world and communities evolve. Our situations change. It’s important we put all eyes on our practices,” he said.

Spence said the district has always had some of the best practices in place. That includes staffing schools with resource officers.

Police Chief Jim Cervera, also in attendance at the press conference, said that his officers have been inside schools since the mid 1990s.

Those officers work full time at the 27 middle and high schools in the district.

“We truly believe that young kids who come to school, who don’t feel safe, they don’t learn,” Cervera said.

The U.S. Navy will also offer their security expertise.

Captain Chad Vincelette, who is the commanding officer at Naval Air Station Oceana, said their partnership began with the district two years ago, when fifth-grade students started visiting for the NAS Oceana Air Show.

About 30 percent of students in the area are dependent upon military members, according to Vincelette.

Spence says they’re already taking steps.

Besides hearing advice from the Navy and police, Spence said they’re already taking physical steps. 

Buzzer systems will be installed in all 86 schools and centers in the district starting before the end of the year.

Spence said it shows that safety starts right at the doors of their schools.

“We think the buzz in system will allow us to harden that and make sure we take a good hard look about who’s coming in that door before we let them in,” he said.

The systems should be installed by the end of summer break.

Spence said it’s just one of their proactive steps to make sure everything is secure in their district.

The panel will begin meeting this spring and provide feedback to the school board at their retreat in July.

Parents, students, and staff will also be able to provide feedback through either town hall-style meetings, forums, or online surveys.

The district will announce that sometime soon. 

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