Supervisors Ask for Secure School Entrances Sooner

Supervisors on the county finance committee have asked county budget staff to find ways to move some projects ahead in the county’s six-year capital and infrastructure spending plan.

Chief among those is funding for a $14.4 million school system project to install security vestibules at school entrances that don’t already have them. According to Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Kevin Lewis, that would mean visitors have to get through two doors to enter the school—an exterior door, and then a second door inside. And rather than admitting visitors directly into the school building, where possible, those vestibules would direct them first into an administrative area, such as the school’s front office.

Newer schools, he said, are already designed that way.

That funding was originally slated for fiscal year 2023. This year, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet proposed pushing it up to fiscal year 2020. And now, supervisors want to push it up to fiscal year 2019—the budget year they’re working on now, which begins July 1.

Finance Committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) proposed breaking up that funding into phases to get some work started sooner, which Lewis said would be “a great benefit.” Currently, Lewis said, the school system anticipates it will take two to three years to install all those vestibules, although they have not drawn up specific plans.

“Obviously, in light of what happened in Florida—and elsewhere—school security is top of mind, as I’m sure it is for the School Board and of course the Sheriff’s Office,” Letourneau said.

Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said the vestibules are not enough.

“I think all of are those are great and they definitely help, but they help for individuals who are not intent on causing harm,” Buffington said. “They are not going to stop someone who is intent on causing harm.”

He pushed for yet more, such as x-ray machines and metal detectors at school entrances. Lewis said those are difficult to manage on a day-to-day basis, but that it’s a discussion the schools have had before and could have again.

Currently, he said, visitors have to check in with a visitor management system that requires a government ID and provides a background check on them. School staff are also trained in visitor interactions to spot dangerous behavior.

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