Group works for safer schools

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Suffolk parents have banded together to help with the costs of upgrading or adding safety measures at Suffolk Public Schools.

Jennifer Brennon is the lead for a school safety committee that helps raise money for Suffolk’s schools that will allow them to implement safety measures.

“There was a video going around on Facebook, and this woman got in front of the Chesapeake School Board and said she was there to help. They set up accounts to donate money for safety items,” Brennon said. “I took the video as inspiration and started it here.”

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Strengthening safety measures has been a topic of conversation within Suffolk Public Schools after several high-profile school shootings and threats around the country. Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Rice addressed the School Board in March regarding updates they plan to make before the end of the school year.

While they plan to make upgrades and pay for additional training, only $603,466 is currently budgeted for the operation and maintenance of security services.

“School safety has been a hot topic since Parkland, and, unfortunately, we are using that momentum to try and do something good,” Brennon said, referring to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 people, mostly students. “Sometimes the schools’ hands are tied when it comes to money, and we can facilitate things to get done quicker.”

Brennon and the committee have been working closely with Rice to find out what each school needs, and they have a “quick and dirty list,” of things, according to Brennon.

Currently on the list are big items such as magnetic door stops and back packs in each classroom that contain emergency safety items. Some of the items are for even smaller fixes that make a school safer overall, not just from a violent threat.

“It can be anything from putting in light bulbs to make a hallway safer. It’s not just necessarily for active shooters,” Brennon said.

Most of Suffolk’s schools have access panels that allow the administration to control the locks on the front doors, but the committee is trying to raise money for an ID card system. This system would require those entering the building to scan their ID card.

The committee has helped set up funds for each of the schools as well as a general fund. This allows businesses and parents to donate to a specific school or donate to the entire school system.

“The general account is for big items, and it will help with some of the schools that don’t get that many donations,” Brennon said. “Some schools will have more parents donate than others, and the general fund helps that.”

Anyone can donate to specific schools by bringing a check to the school with “school safety” in the memo, and these checks can also be mailed to each school.

People can also give to the general fund by mailing a check to the School Administrative Offices, 100 N. Main St., with “school safety” in the memo.

Brennon also spearheaded the “Parents for Better Schools — Suffolk VA” Facebook page, and it aims to have more active parents within Suffolk Public Schools. Those who want more information can reach Brennon at jbrennon257@yahoo.com or join the Facebook page.

Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw did not respond to a request for comment.