LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — One more week and students will be walking the halls during the new school year and districts’ campus security in Central Arkansas are prepared to welcome them back in.
For North Little Rock School District, students will be heading to their first class, all under the watchful eye of their security system.
"We’ve added a dispatcher who will monitor our camera system, monitor cameras throughout the school district with our security personnel and our district managers to make sure we are where we need to be and make sure we have the safest campuses we can have," said Hayward Finks, Director of Safety Services for North Little Rock School District.
But he said before you even get past the door.
"Beginning of the school year last year, we started a pilot program of open gate weapon detectors at the high school," said Finks. "We feel that program was pretty successful and so we are expanding that to all of our campuses this year. We will have an open gate weapon detector at the front door of all of our elementary schools to screen all visitors that come into the building throughout the day.”
Across the river, Little Rock School District is also continuing with security upgrades implemented last year.
"The weapons detection systems in all secondary schools," said Ron Self, LRSD Director of Safety and Security. "We finished out the high schools last year and some middle schools. We will begin finishing out the rest of the middle schools this year.”
"The crisis badge which is this badge here that all staff have," said Self. "They are able to actually take this badge and in the event of an emergency, are able to put the school in a lockdown.”
Self said this is not the only thing the badge does.
Staff can use it to alert for help. for something like a medical issue.
"We can set off tornado warning issues at every campus from my office right here in case of weather coming in, such as what we had just a few months ago," said Self. "It sets off a strobe alert and it also sets off an intercom, a prerecorded intercom announcement too.”
Also, Self said an $800,000 grant from the state awarded to the district is still in the works.
"We are devoting all of that to access control," said Self. "We were fortunate enough to have all of our primary doors access control already district wide. We are now going back in and adding ancillary doors. We are about a third of the way through that project.”
In the county, William El-Amin, Security Facilitator for Pulaski County Special School District, said their security is focused on two parts: training and physical security.
"We are going to be working with our SRO’s and we are going to be doing more drill exercises on active shooter, on evacuation, and reunifications," said El-Amin. "We have CCTV, we already have access control. What we are doing is integrating and unifying the two systems and then adding analytics such as to identify faces.”
He said by doing this; they can implement facial recognition.
"See who is approaching in the parking lot, gunshot detection, even gun detection," said El-Amin. "If someone is walking through the parking lot, we are able to see who has a weapon and start the lockdown process if necessary. Those few seconds matter.”
Unfortunately, violence in schools continues to rise across the country.
Each district agrees, safety is crucial to a child’s education and they plan to be prepared to keep students safe.
“I think it is everything, you know?" said Self. "If a kid doesn’t feel safe at a campus, they are not going to learn and it is our job as a safety and security department to support that and to make sure they feel safe so the teachers can do their jobs and create life-long learners.”
El-Amin said PCSSD is also increasing their active shooter drills from two a year to around four to five a year.