By spring break in April, every Fayette County Public high school is expected to have walk-through metal detectors. By next school year, so will every public middle school in Lexington. The total cost: $2.26 million.
That’s part of the timeline that Superintendent Manny Caulk and his staff on Monday night revealed for when $13.5 million in district-wide school safety improvements would be implemented as a result of a property tax increase.
As part of the initiative, Chief Martin Schafer said he will start in December hiring law enforcement officers for every school in the district, instead of just high schools. At a cost of $3 million, the first priority will be middle schools, then special programs and elementary schools. In a related announcement, Schafer said that a new state law reclassifies Fayette school law enforcement officers as police officers, which requires the immediate renaming of the law enforcement department as Fayette County Public Schools Police Department but doesn’t mandate different duties.
The timeline is the first school safety update released by the district since July 18, when school board members voted to add a 5-cent property tax for every $100 of property value.
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Some in Lexington tried to recall the increase, but failed to get enough signatures this summer to put the issue to a public vote. The improvements were recommended by an advisory council created this year after mass school shootings in Florida and Kentucky and several threats of school violence in Fayette County.
School board vice chair Ray Daniels said at Monday’s school board planning meeting that district officials have heard from citizens and local groups that the spending of the “extra tax dollars” should be transparent. Toward that effort, Caulk said the district will put on its website information on the flow of dollars.
While people support the “investment.. they do want to walk alongside of us and be able to see clearly how the dollars are being expended,” Caulk said.
Currently, only one school — Frederick Douglass High — has the walk-through metal detectors.
In other safety improvements, district officials expect to hire one mental health professional for every 300 students by December at a cost of $ 2.8 million. Adolescent health assessments and programs that promotes health will cost $1.5 million and begin by January 2019. More school nurses will be hired by December of this year.
There will be $1.7 million spent on exterior door alarms, cameras, and electronic entry badges for staff. The door alarms will be installed at high schools first. By January 2020, $1.5 million will be spent on more secure school vestibules in all buildings.
High school and middle school students and staff will have identification badges by March 2019 at a cost of $115,000. New monitoring of public social media sites will cost $67,200 and be implemented by October of this year. Education and training on school safety issues for staff, families and students throughout 2018-19 will cost $430,000.
An upgraded emergency communication system will be in place by April 2019 and will cost $57,000.
Earlier on Monday, Caulk explained the Fayette plan to a bipartisan state legislative work group studying school safety.
School board chairwoman Stephanie Spires said the “cutting edge” school safety improvements bringing Fayette County “national recognition for being ahead of the game” was one of the reasons school board members gave Caulk exemplary and accomplished marks in a recent evaluation in a closed session.
Spires said Caulk isn’t leaving the district any time soon. He “still plans to be here with us for awhile because we have a lot of goals yet that we all want to accomplish,” she said.