Fannin County awarded excellence in school safety

Community, News, Rebel's Corner
Exemplary Board

Blue Ridge, Ga. – When it comes to school safety, Fannin County continues to excel and was recently acknowledged by local law enforcement and emergency response for their efforts.

“One of the things that I am very very proud with Fannin County, our school system, is the relationships we that have between our government agencies, especially the sheriff’s department and the emergency management services,” Director of Transportation and Safety Benny Long said explaining that all agencies play a vital role in protecting the youth of the community.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County School System not only met but exceeded state requirements in the area of emergency preparedness.

Faculty of the school system often train alongside these agencies preparing for a number of scenarios and Long acknowledged that there is a comfort in knowing that Fannin County’s emergency personnel is “just a phone call away”.

Looking back on the past year, the Fannin County School System took a number of proactive steps in the process of making its campuses as safe as possible for all who attend.

At the April 12, 2018 Board Of Education (BOE) meeting the board introduced the GAMB policy. This policy was adopted and essentially gave Fannin County schools the option of arming personnel.

While the new policy definitely grabbed the attention of parents and residents alike, administration and staff had also been working in other ways to help secure campuses and ensure the safety of Fannin County children.

“We work diligently everyday to ensure the safety of our students,” Long said of the ongoing efforts, “If a child doesn’t feel safe at school, they can’t learn. Those are one of the basic needs that have to met.”

One element of safety that Fannin County is proud to offer is that a School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to each of the school campuses.

“This is a community effort by the Fannin County School System, the Sheriff’s Department, and Blue Ridge City Police,” Long explained of groups working together for the betterment of the schools.

Long spoke specifically of the resource officers in Fannin County stating that “it takes a special person to be a resource officer. It takes someone who loves the students, who wants to be involved, and who wants to make a difference in that young child’s life.”

“That’s the best set of eyes that we have,” Long continued to explain the importance of SROs in our schools, “when a student feels comfortable reaching out to our resource officers and confiding in them and giving them information.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County’s School Resource Officers credited with going above and beyond for the students.

Fannin County also has an emergency operation plan for the schools. This emergency operation plan has been in effect and constantly evolving since 2003.

The comprehensive safety plan covers a number of scenarios from weather and gas leaks to active shooters and bomb threats.

The plan in the past was vetted or checked by GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency), but recently under new guidelines has been handed over to local agencies for approval.

Though local agencies are now in charge of reviewing the district’s comprehensive safety plan, it still must meet all requirements laid out by the state of Georgia as stated in O.C.G.A.20-2-1185.

“I’m going to brag on ours. Ours exceeds the minimum requirements by the state,” Fannin County School Resource Officer Lieutenant Darvin Couch said of the district’s most recent plan.

Active shooter drills were performed at the schools during the summer of 2018, but none of these drills have taken place while students were present.
Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) also performed a mock disaster drill over spring break of 2018.

Fannin County Transportation Department participated in this drill and school bus drivers got to experience the scenario of moving people during a disaster. This drill also included the setting up of shelter at Morganton Baptist Church.

Long informed the public that all schools have top of the line cameras in place, and that SRO’s as well as the Sheriff’s Office have the ability to remote access the cameras. These cameras are capable of producing clear images of not only people but also vehicles and vehicle tags.

Through the use of these high tech devices, security is able to pinpoint the “location of whatever the threat could be” and know “what they are getting ready to go into”.

Fannin County High School added 52 of these cameras in the months of March and April in 2018.

“We are working with all three of our elementary schools to work on a plan to control access at our elementary schools,” Long said of the ongoing effort to continue safety improvements.

“None of us wants to limit anyone to come to school with their child,” Long added. The school system wants parents and guardians to always feel welcome, but would like to know who and when someone enters a school building or campus.

The high school will experience a similar point of entry security measure with a “storefront” door being placed before the office at the main entrance. This door will require either a key card entry or for a person to be buzzed in.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Members of the Board of Education along with faculty of the school system receive certification for emergency operations plan.

Beyond local networking with various emergency providers to our county, the school system was also in contact with the Georgia Secret Service Agency.

“We have actually reached out and have a contact with an agent out of Atlanta,” Long said, “and they are going to be working with us on some different measures that we can use to keep our schools safe.”

“Safety also takes on many aspects. It’s not only the school’s safety of the buildings, the campus, and the faculty, but also involves our faculty members and our employees,” Long stated.

SRO Couch presented the BOE with a certificate recognizing the work the school system has done through extensive planning in exceeding the requirements set forth in providing and updating a comprehensive safety plan.

Couch read from a letter written by Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby: “From tornadoes to terrorism, Fannin County faces a variety of ever-evolving threats, underscoring the importance of updating plans in cooperation with local public safety professionals.”

Kirby added in his letter,”I am pleased to inform you that your school emergency operations plans have once again successfully met the requirements of O.C.G.A. 20-2-1185.”

The BOE, administration, and staff continue to work within the community and access outside resources to provide the best safety solutions for the students of Fannin County.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

West Fannin Elementary School becomes STEM certified

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – A vision led to a goal, and diligent work led to accomplishment as West Fannin Elementary School (WFES) officially became STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) certified by the Georgia Department of Education.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, West Fannin Elementary School, WFES, Georgia Department of Education, Board of Education, Principal, Lucas Roof, Assistant Principal, Alison Danner, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, STEM, Certification, Project 1954

Students from all grade levels meet with a STEM certification team.

Out of thousands of elementary schools in the state of Georgia, WFES is only the 36th school to have this recognition, and only the fourth in the north Georgia area.

Assistant Principal Alison Danner spoke about how this vision came about: “Five or six years ago there were several of us at the STEM conference at Athens at the University of Georgia, and we all said this is what we want.”

Danner spoke of Fannin County Curriculum Director and previous WFES Principal Robert Ensley: “He was the one that was kind of the forefront, that saw this as a part of the vision for West Fannin in years to come.”

Seeing this vision become a reality took years of hard work from WFES. After initiating a school STEM program and integrating its teachings into day-to-day classroom activities, the school then had to apply for certification.

WFES went through a series of pre-visits in which a team consisting of representatives from math, science, CTAE (career, technical and agricultural education), technology, and business would come to West Fannin and give feedback on how to reach certification level.

“When they do these pre-visits they give you tons of feedback on anything and everything,” Principal Lucas Roof said, describing the process, “and so we received all the feedback that we could possibly receive from them, and the cool thing about it is that we didn’t just sit on that feedback.

“We used that feedback. Our teachers used that feedback, and we got better and better.” Roof added. “We took that constructive criticism, and we put it to use.”

Nov. 3, 2017, was the third and final pre-visit to WFES, and the team at that time felt that the school was ready for a final visit.

“When the team comes in, they don’t talk to us. They don’t talk to the teachers. They talk to the kids. It’s all about what the kids can articulate to them,” Roof added, explaining the final visit, “and kids are going to tell the truth.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, West Fannin Elementary School, WFES, Georgia Department of Education, Board of Education, Principal, Lucas Roof, Assistant Principal, Alison Danner, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, STEM, Certification, Project 1954

Students at WFES show a STEM certification team how they use skills used at school to solve real world problems.

What this means for WFES is that they are teaching children these fields in ways in which the children become critical thinkers and can apply the skills they are learning to real-world problems.

“It means you are doing what’s right for the kids in terms of hands on learning, in terms of math and science integration, involving the community,” Roof explained of what the Georgia Department of Education looks for in the certifying process.

The students at WFES have applied the skills taught and integrated them into improving their own school environment through Project 1954.

According to Danner, this project involves each grade level to focus on a particular area and come up with ways to improve these areas. An example can be scene in the nature trail created by fourth-grade students.

Roof says that none of this would be possible without the effort of an entire team: “I would like to thank our entire faculty and staff for working so hard and so diligently. I also want to thank our parents, community business partners, our Fannin County School System county office directors, and our Board of Education members for always supporting us throughout this lengthy process. Most of all, I want to thank our students.”

Danner pointed out that while Roof would not acknowledge it himself, a huge thank you is due to him as well: “He was the integral part that took us to the final phases. Mr. Roof just came in and filled that piece that solidified that this was what was going to happen.”

Ensley, the educator credited with the vision of STEM certification, commented on the news that WFES had finally reached its goal. “It has been a dream of mine. I cannot be more excited for West Fannin. They put a lot of time, a lot of effort into making this a success. They did a phenomenal job,” Ensley said.

“Hands down, so proud of them,” Ensley added with a beaming smile.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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