Panel finds VB schools safe, makes recommendations for improvements


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach Schools officials say their buildings are safe, but they plan to do more to make them even more secure.

After the school shootings in Parkland, Florida, Virginia Beach Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence called for a special panel to look into the safety of the Resort City’s schools.

“I think any educator loses sleep over security,” Spence said.  “That’s obviously our first priority.  Our job, our obligation is to prevent as much as we can through the best practices.”

The blue ribbon panel made up of school and city personnel, police officers and Navy officials found the school system can do more in the way of practicing emergencies and training security staff at entrances.

“I think one of the things we’ve been talking about is evaluating who sits in those seats and making sure we have highly-trained, highly-qualified security personnel in those seats,” Spence added.

MORE: Students push for gunfire detection systems in Virginia Beach schools

MORE: New panel to look at school security in Va. Beach

Another major suggestion was having more mental health professionals in the building.  Right now, Virginia Beach is far behind the national standard with is one clinician per 500 students.  Virginia Beach is sitting at one per every 1,314 students.

VBCPS currently has 40 school psychologists and 11 behavior interventionists.  

“Part of it is how we would train staff to recognize signs of students who are in distress, but also we don’t quite frankly feel that we have enough mental health clinicians and behaviorists in our buildings,” Spence said.

Officials say it is impossible to stop all situations, but the goal is to try to do so.

Any parent wants to make sure when their child gets on the school bus and they are getting off the school bus coming back home,” added Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera.  “We are all parents.  I agree with them.  We have to view this through the parents’ eyes.”

School officials say a buzz-in locking system will be complete by December. 

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