Education

Two more Lexington high schools getting metal detectors. Up next: middle schools.

Metal detectors and security staff helping with student searches are being implemented at Lafayette High School this week and at Henry Clay High School in September and October, joining Lexington’s four other main high schools.

After Henry Clay, metal detectors and student searches with the help of ‘security ambassadors’ will move into middle schools in Lexington.

Fayette County Schools Chief Operating Officer Myron Thompson shared that update at Monday night’s school board meeting where board chair Stephanie Spires also announced the creation of a steering committee to monitor the school safety fund. The fund is the result of a tax increase approved last year that resulted in a $13. 5 million package of school safety measures.

Walk-through metal detectors and “security ambassadors” are already in place at Douglass, Dunbar, Tates Creek, and Bryan Station high schools. Spires said at Monday’s board meeting that the delays in installing metal detectors at the remaining schools have not been the fault of district officials but were due to demands across the country for the same equipment and materials.

The steering committee to watch school safety funds is being created at the urging of board vice-chair Raymond Daniels. He said it will include yet to be named “community members with varied backgrounds,” along with he and Spires.

“The community has entrusted us to be good stewards of the school safety fund,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “The community needs to have a voice on how we spend such dollars as well as managing the transparency of the funds. There are recurring cost that need to have greater oversight the same way we manage our budget and audit process with community members. The goal is to limit any waste and maximize ... the supports ...needed year to year.”

Daniels and Spires said at an Aug. 15 meeting that board members will be more transparent with how tax dollars are spent. Daniels said he did not think school safety dollars were spent very efficiently the first year, because there were unknowns. But he said he was trying to make sure that in the future, those safety dollars will be spent efficiently.

In 2018, the school board approved a total tax rate increase of 6 cents, which included 5 cents dedicated solely to school safety. For 2018-19, the general tax levy on real and personal property was 81 cents per $100 assessed valuation for real estate and 76 cents per $100 assessed valuation for personal property

Last week, facing public opposition of another tax rate increase, board members proposed not increasing the tax rate for 2019-2020. A final vote by the board will be taken Sept. 11.

Thompson on Monday provided other updates on the district’s 10-point safety improvement and investment plan. Among them:

Middle and high school student ID badges have been distributed. The district is getting an upgraded emergency communication system. Door alarms and a door access system are in place.

Security cameras have been installed at all schools. Updates to DVR camera recorders have been completed. Construction will start in October on secure vestibules at schools that don’t have them and run through December 2020. Fifty-eight additional police officers have been hired, including five officers in the academy who will graduate by December. The district is also actively recruiting minority and bilingual mental health and behavioral support professionals.

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